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More Monitor Farms for Scotland as Funding Boost Rewards Success

06 March 2013

SCOTLAND, UK - More than £260,000 has been secured from the Scottish Government to fund a new round of four Scottish monitor farms over three years, covering arable (cereals/oilseeds, with potatoes in rotation) and dairy.

The new funding has been awarded to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) under the Skills Development Scheme of the Scottish Government/European Union Scotland Rural Development Programme.

AHDB will supplement the grant money with levy funding and in-kind support of its own, making the total support package worth around £450,000.

AHDB’s divisions for cereals and oilseeds (HGCA) and potatoes (Potato Council) will be recruiting two arable monitor farms from the Fife, Inverness and Murray Coast areas, to begin in October this year.

The levy board’s dairy division (DairyCo) is inviting applications for two Scottish dairy monitor farms, one in the South West, the other from the Central region, to start in April 2013.

The monitor farm concept, promoted by AHDB since 2010, is geared to helping farmers come together to make decisions from shared advice and practical knowledge.

All monitor farms are commercial enterprises backed by a monitor farm group drawn from the local community, which meets six times a year to explore ideas and generate feedback.

“This new funding is a direct result of the success of our current monitor farm programme,” said AHDB Chief Executive Tom Taylor.

“Monitor farms work because they use the farm environment to bring farmers and the industry together to look at ways of developing farm business improvements over the longer term. This can provide the key to achieving production efficiencies, raising overall farm performance and boosting both profitability and sustainability.

“There is clearly a broader value to the monitor farm, in the way it shares knowledge, advice and innovation for the benefit of the local farming community and the wider industry.”

Scottish monitor farms previously supported by AHDB include arable farms in Aberdeenshire and the Borders and dairy farms in Lockerbie and Angus. AHDB has also supported English dairy monitor farms, in Cornwall and in the North West, in Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire.

Any farmers wanting to find out more about monitor farms and to take part in the new Scottish programme should contact:

Scottish arable monitor farms:
Amie Burke, HGCA Business Improvement Executive – 0247 647 8743 email amie.burke@hgca.ahdb.org.uk

Scottish dairy monitor farms:
Scottish DairyCo Extension Officers - Heather Wildman (07876 706 391) or Sophie Kinnear (07717 500 877).

AHDB monitor farms – Scottish case studies

Arable

AHDB already has two arable monitor farms operating in Scotland. Both will continue until 2014:

A&J Hodge - the Borders

Alistair Hodge grows 152 hectares of combinable crops, including winter wheat and barley for feed, plus oats and milling wheat. To Alistair, becoming a monitor farmer was all about trying new ideas and gaining a fresh perspective. He wanted to draw on the experience of others to improve his business:

“The experience of being a monitor farmer has pushed me out of my comfort zone with public speaking and being asked for comments by the press. I find it challenging, but very rewarding and a good experience to go through.

“The project has broadened my horizons – I find myself looking for opportunities to expand my business and personal profile from all angles.”

Savock Farm - Aberdeenshire

Andrew Booth grows 324 hectares of combinable crops and has 300 beef cattle on two farms. He values how being a monitor farmer helps him make key decisions, such as buying a new fertiliser spreader, for example.

“There is an excellent calibre of people taking part in the project, with a huge range of experience and expertise brought to the fore,” he says.

Dairy

AHDB has had two dairy monitor farms operating in Scotland since 2010. Both projects concluded in Feb 2013:

Carcary Farms – East Pitforthie, Brechin, Angus

Sandy Milne runs a 340 pedigree Holstein herd, as well as growing barley and wheat. Sandy, his family and the whole milking team say they’ve thoroughly enjoyed and valued the monitor farm experience:

“There were many areas of our business where we felt we were doing well; equally, there were areas we felt needed improvement. However, being a monitor farm shone a light on exactly what was good and what wasn’t so good, and all the meetings that followed over the three years brought a wealth of expertise, not only from the advisory world but also from our own monitor farm community group,” says Sandy.

“The community group, our regular attendees at meetings, proved the linchpin of the project. As time progressed, we went from being a slightly insular, perhaps shy group of farmers to a group that was far more open to discussion and information transfer. Personally, I now feel much more confident talking to larger groups of people and I think the monitor project has provided a platform for me to become more involved in the dairy industry.

“Carcary Farms would like to thank all those involved in the project and we wish all the best to the lucky farms that will carry the monitor farm project forwards for the next three years.”

The Fleming family - Hillhead, near Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire

The Flemings took up the challenge to run a monitor farm after making significant farm investment. The chief focus was to improve herd performance, their key to creating a sustainable business by improving profitability.

“Our three years as a monitor farm have seen a lot of changes to herd management, through the DairyCo Healthy Feet programme, DairyCo’s Mastitis Control Plan, the many experts who have been on farm and of course our community group,” says Willie Fleming.

“This, alongside our move into the new unit in autumn 2010, allowed us to gain great benefit from all the expertise brought on to the farm – all of which mixed together has had a very positive effect.”

TheCattleSite News Desk



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