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Argyllshire Producer Confident Low-Input System Is Adaptable for Future

The benefits of using an efficient, low-input cattle system are the focus of the next Planning for Profit meeting being held at Argyllshire producers Neil and Hazel McCorkindale’s Scammadale farm, just south of Oban on 2 October.

The McCorkindales run 70 Luing suckler cows and 350 Blackface ewes on 1100 acres. The couple are confident that their fairly simple management system, which is achieving good results, will help them adapt to CAP changes.

Planning for Profit is an initiative aimed at assisting cattle, sheep and mixed arable farmers to make decisions that will ensure they are well placed to operate profitably in the face of reduced CAP support. The initiative is supported by the Scottish Government’s Skills Development Scheme, Quality Meat Scotland and NFU Scotland, and delivered by SAOS, SAC Consulting (part of SRUC) and 2 Mennie Cooks.

At Scammadale all the Luing cows are crossed with a Simmental bull to produce the popular Sim-Luing heifers for breeding while the bull calves are sold store. The herd is mainly spring calving, but around 20 calve in October.

Mr McCorkindale explained: "We only put the bulls in for ten weeks with the spring calvers, as I like to get the calving over and done with by the end of May.”

In December, however, the bull goes in for only four weeks to keep the autumn calving period even tighter. Fertility within the herd is excellent, with 96% calves reared on average per year.

Apart from the management benefits of a tight spring calving period, Mr McCorkindale believes another big advantage is a good, level batch of calves to sell in October. He said: "By October, there is little difference between the calves which were born first and those that were born last."

All the spring-calving cows go out to the hill after weaning in October where they do a good job utilising the rough grazing. However, 40 of the older cows are away-wintered at a farm in Braco, Perthshire, from December to March in time for calving in April and May.

Just before Christmas, the home-wintered cows come down to the 60 acres of in-bye grass where they are fed silage and, during the calving period, also receive some concentrates, although Mr McCorkindale said the feeding regime is very weather dependent.

The sheep flock at Scammadale is also fairly low input, making the most of the rough hill ground available. The couple usually achieve around 85% lambing for the pure Blackface ewes, and the lambs are sold store in September at Oban.

The McCorkindales have worked out that they will be big losers as a result of changes to the CAP, having previously enjoyed a high entitlement due to their fairly high stocking rates.

However, they are confident that their low-input system is readily adaptable and they should be able to adjust to the new Single Farm Payment without being forced to reduce stock numbers.

The free meeting on October 2 will take place at Scammadale farm, Kilninver, PA34 4UU and will start at 1:30pm and finish at 5pm. To register your attendance, please contact Kirsty at QMS on 0131 472 4040 or email info@qmscotland.co.uk