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Boosting Flock Performance is Priority for Borders Monitor Farm

Finding ways to improve sheep performance will be the main topic of discussion at the next Borders Monitor Farm meeting, at host farm Whitriggs on Thursday 28 September.

The 480 hectare farm near Denholm is run by Robert and Lesley Mitchell, along with their son Stuart. The family are constantly looking for ways to improve the performance of their livestock, which as well as 140 suckler cows, includes 1,000 Lleyns which lamb inside at the end of March.

The farm recently undertook a benchmarking exercise using AHDB's FarmBench system, which identified that although costs are well under control, there may be opportunities to increase output from the sheep enterprise.

The flock at Whitriggs currently scans at around 180%, which the Mitchells would like to improve slightly if they can, and therefore increase output from the flock.

At the meeting on 28 September the need to ensure ewes and tups are in optimal health and body condition as the tupping period approaches, will be a focus. Vet Matt Colston from Elanco will give a practical demonstration on how to condition score ewes as well as how to carry out a ram “MOT”.

He said: “Tupping represents the beginning of the sheep year; a successful start is an essential foundation for a profitable enterprise, as a small lamb crop conceived at tupping limits the enterprise from the very start.”

The second part of the meeting will look at ways to optimise lamb growth and performance.

Independent consultant Ian Cairns will outline what the limiting factors in growth rates are and what can be done to improve them.

The Mitchells currently sell their prime lambs through Farmstock Scotland and aim for deadweights of 19-20kg, with the first lambs ready at the beginning of August.

Robert Mitchell commented: “We are generally quite happy with the spec and weight of the prime lambs we produce, however we think that there is an opportunity to finish our lambs a month quicker”. 

Health and nutrition are key to achieving good lamb growth rates and Andrew Robinson from Hawick vets will discuss how to optimise nutrition in lambs. He will also outline the feed plan he has developed for Whitriggs to help improve their ewe’s milking ability and early stage growth rates.

Whitriggs farm is one of nine new 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 on 28 September will start at Whitriggs Farm, Denholm, TD9 8QR with tea and coffee at 9.45am. Lunch will be provided and the meeting is expected to finish by 2pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

For catering purposes, those interested in coming along on 28 September should confirm attendance with Stephen Young, one of the project facilitators, on 07502 339613 or email stephen.young@saos.coop.

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