18th July 2018

Technology Opportunities Highlighted on Thurso Farm

The opportunities for farmers to use technology to increase efficiency will be the focus of the next Sutherland Monitor Farm meeting on Wednesday 25th July.


Thurso farmer Donald Macdonald from Taldale Farm at Forss, will host the meeting. Mr Macdonald, who farms in partnership with his wife Fiona, runs a flock of 900 North Cheviot sheep over a total of 240 hectares and has attended many of the past meetings at Clynelish Farm in Brora, Sutherland’s Monitor Farm.


Like many farmers in Scotland, Mr Macdonald has limited access to additional labour, so has embraced technology and invested in several systems to help save him both time and money.


“I need my enterprise to be as efficient as possible, and with a landscaping business to run as well as the farm, any system that is labour saving is of interest to me,” said Mr Macdonald.


Five years ago, Mr Macdonald invested in a Racewell sheep handling system with weigh crate and autoshedder. The system will be demonstrated at the meeting next week and Jane Thomson from Shearwell Data will explain how the information collated from the software on the weigh crate can be used to improve the efficiency of the sheep enterprise.


The group will also have an opportunity to learn about the ClipEx fencing system that Mr Macdonald uses on his farm. Originally from Australia, the claim is that the system is quick to erect, stronger and more cost effective than other forms of traditional fencing in the market. 


After seeing some listeria in his sheep due to mouldy silage, Mr Macdonald began using Silostop bale wrap three years ago and the oxygen barrier film has proved very successful at Taldale.


“The seal on the bale is so much more effective, and the colour, the weight, and the analysis all demonstrate how the reduction of oxygen ingression into the bale improves the quality of the silage,” said Mr Macdonald.


“I’ve also found that bales wrapped in Silostop retain their weight better than standard wrapped bales, which means I have more silage to feed through the winter. The forage I have now is also better quality, so I need to feed less purchased feed, so overall the cost of production is lower, despite increased wrap costs.” 


Vic and Jason Ballantyne, who farm at Clynelish Farm, are looking forward to visiting Mr Macdonald’s farm and seeing how he has managed to save time and money by investing in technology.


“We are really grateful that Donald has agreed to host the visit to his farm next week,” said Jason Ballantyne.


“We, like lots of other farmers in the group, are keen to learn how technology can help make our own business more efficient.”


Also at the meeting on 25 July, Highland Drones will give a demonstration of agricultural drones and explain some of their potential uses on livestock farms, including animal monitoring, crop growth, soil health and thermal imaging. 


“We are really excited to see if drones can help us check our livestock at Clynelish,” said Vic Ballantyne.


“We have a lot of hill and checking sheep in the dense bracken area’s is a nightmare on foot by truck or tractor – especially in the winter months.”


Clynelish Farm is one of nine monitor farms established in Scotland as part of a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds with funding from the Scottish Government. The aim of the monitor farm programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.


The meeting at Taldale Farm on Wednesday 25th July is free to attend and open to all. It will begin at 11am, with coffee and registration from 10.30am. Lunch is included.


Farmers interested in attending the next Sutherland Monitor farm meeting should confirm attendance with the facilitators Willie Budge or Cat MacGregor by phoning SAC Thurso on 01847 892602 or emailing FBSThurso@sac.co.uk


For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk 

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