3rd December 2015

Ross-shire Farm Opens Gates for Legacy Monitor Farm Event

A former monitor farm in Ross-shire will be opening its gates again later this month as part of a series of Monitor Farm Legacy events being run by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Attendees will have the opportunity to hear an update from the Scott family about the changes they have made to their farm business at the free event at Fearn Farm near Tain on Thursday 17 December.

This event is the last of five monitor farm legacy events organised by QMS that have been held at former monitor farms around Scotland in November and December.

Although it is six years since Fearn Farm completed its three years term as a QMS Monitor Farm, John Scott believes his business has continued to benefit from lessons learned during their monitor farm experience.

Fearn extends to just over 1000 acres, 350 acres of which are sown with winter and spring barley, potatoes and swedes with the remaining 650 acres down to grass. Additionally a further 300 acres of grazing is rented five miles away, with a further 2500 acres rented in Sutherland.

At the start of the programme the farm was carrying 1000 ewes and 120 cows. Now the business, which has recently entered into two contract farming arrangements in Easter Ross,  has 4050 ewes, 1250 hoggs and 250 cows as the Scott family have steadily improved the grass by reseeding and developed an outwintering system for the cows on stubble turnips.

John Scott, who was Farmers Weekly Sheep Farmer of the Year and host of this year’s Highland Sheep, has invested heavily in genetics in his sheep flock, using New Zealand Suffolks and Aberfields as well as Texels in order to boost prolificacy and ease of lambing. The Scotts record all the sheep flocks using EID and find it an important tool to make sure there are no ewes or rams under-performing in the flock.

For the last few years Fearn has held a "Great from Grass" on-farm sale for its tups which in 2015 saw 112 rams average £712 with no feeding or dressing. This year for the first time the Scott family also held a successful store lamb sale on the farm when they sold 2242 lambs.

Next year's project, according to the Scotts, is to split the farm into blocks in order to rotationally graze both sheep and cattle.  Mr Scott believes the next few years will be challenging for stock farmers and they will be forced to make changes to their businesses to improve efficiency and margins.

"Knowledge transfer is more important than ever in this scenario and monitor farms are key to accessing new and different techniques and ideas," he said.

Mr Scott is looking forward to the Legacy event this month and revisiting the objectives which were set at the time.

"I am not sure if all our objectives have been met but there is no doubt I have evolved as a person following the monitor farm experience. The big difference was being taught how to think through processes and be more receptive to change and new ideas,” he said.

"We were lucky to have a great community group of around 30 regulars and some of the specialists we had access to during the programme were brilliant."

Mr Scott also reckons his management style changed as a result of the monitor farm experience. He said: "Nine years ago there was just me, my dad and one employee. Now we have four full-time staff and I believe the key to running a successful business is to include them fully and keep them enthusiastic and motivated."

Mr Scott said that, in his experience, it is not what happens during the three years as a monitor farmer, but what happens afterwards that is important, which is exactly what the Legacy events aim to highlight and he is looking forward to welcoming the community group and others back to his farm in December.

For further information about this event and to register your place, click here   

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