14th May 2015

Scottish Farming Families Support Open Farm Sunday

Around 30 Scottish farming families will this year be joining farmers throughout the UK and opening their gates to the public for Open Farm Sunday on June 7th.

Among them is the Dawes family who farm near Kinross and are looking forward to welcoming up to 1000 visitors as part of the LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) initiative.

Quality Meat Scotland is one of the supporters of Open Farm Sunday which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and offers a unique opportunity for consumers to see for themselves what’s involved in farming and food production.

The Dawes family moved to Hilton of Aldie near Kinross in 2013 from Oxfordshire where their busy farm shop and butchery business participated annually in Open Farm Sunday. 

Colin Dawes and his wife Di run the farm along with their son, Stuart, and their daughter Rebecca is also involved.

“Opening up your farm may seem like a daunting experience but this is a working farm and the visitors really love to meet our livestock and find out how we farm,” said Colin Dawes.

“On the day we do a hog roast and BBQ, which is very popular, and whilst I’m carving I always chat and answer as many questions as possible. People are interested in where their food comes from and I’ve never received any awkward or difficult questions.”

The 365-acre farm is predominantly grass and supports a herd of 40 Lincoln Red cows and a flock of 300 Mule and 200 Romney ewes.  The Lincoln Reds moved up with the family and calve in spring and autumn, with the Angus cross calves sold store.

Mr Dawes finds the native breed is well suited to the farm and the cows weigh about 550-600kg so don’t poach the land as much as a heavier breed. From this season a Hereford bull will be introduced to produce replacement heifers and enable the herd to grow.

Stuart, who also works as a scientist researching Liver Fluke at Moredun Research Institute, runs the sheep enterprise. In addition to the Mules they have recently purchased 200 Romney gimmers and after their first lambing in Kinross-shire he is pleased with their performance so far. 

“The Romneys’ wool is a great asset in our climate, acting like a waterproof sleeping bag,” said Stuart Dawes.

The breed has also lived up to its reputation as an efficient converter of feed.

“We find the Romneys more likely to graze rough grass during winter than look for the silage ring to be filled up again,” commented Mr Dawes.

Having embraced EID recording, breed and performance data is now being carefully analysed and used to build up the numbers to around 800 ewes. 

Mr Dawes will explain the use of technology in this process to the visitors on the 7th June as well as highlighting the role of science and innovation in modern farming.

The pygmy goats live in a field next to the steading with nannies and kids proving a big hit with visitors of all ages. An “incredibly handsome” Golden Pheasant will be on show and in a stroke of good luck more than good timing their Hampshire sow is due to deliver a litter of piglets just before Open Farm Sunday.

Rebecca Dawes is Communications and Rural Affairs Manager with the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) and also Open Farm Sunday Co-ordinator in Scotland.

“Involving other farmers is a great way to make the day a success,” observed Ms Dawes.

“We are fortunate that a neighbour is willing to put on a sheepdog display for us with his working collies. Our shearing contractor will also come along and shear the hogs and Kinross Young Farmers are bringing a display of tractors and will oversee the car park.

“We couldn’t do everything ourselves and we find local groups are very keen to be involved. The Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) will return this year and we have organised new wool spinning and weaving activities for children inside.”

Quality Meat Scotland will also be showing visitors how to make simple, delicious burgers using Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork.

With a record number of 26 farms in Scotland already involved in 2015 the charity are keen to see this number grow even further. To locate an Open Farm Sunday near you or to find out about how to host an event visit www.farmsunday.org

Caption: Open Farm Sunday Hosts, from left, Rebecca Dawes, Stuart Dawes and Colin Dawes.

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