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Borders New Monitor Farm Gears Up for First Meeting

The Mitchell family, hosts of Border's new monitor farm, are looking forward to welcoming local farmers to their first open meeting next week.

Robert Mitchell, along with his wife Lesley and son Stuart are currently preparing to host their launch event, which is being held on Wednesday 22nd February. The meeting will start at Whitriggs Farm, Denholm, TD9 8QR at 10am, before moving to the Auld Cross Keys Inn for lunch. The event should finish by 2.30pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

Whitriggs farm is one of nine new monitor farms established in Scotland as part of a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The aim of the programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses through practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practice and the discussion of up-to-date issues.

The Mitchell family currently farm 442 hectares of mainly semi-permanent and permanent grassland. They also grow approximately 40 hectares of winter wheat and oats for feeding their stock. They have 140 suckler cows which are a combination of Beef Shorthorn cross and Aberdeen Angus cross, and 1,000 Lleyn ewes. 

The family are keen to both develop their farm business and safeguard it for future generations. One aspect of their business the Mitchells are keen to look at initially, is their calving and lambing percentages.

Lesley Mitchell commented: “Although we are fairly happy with our current percentages, we think there is still room for improvement, so are looking forward to the input of the community group to suggest improvements we can make here at Whitriggs.”

This farmer led learning is an important part of the monitor farm programme. Farmers who attend the meetings at Whitriggs can share ideas and suggest changes that the farm can make to improve its efficiency and then monitor the results on the farm over the three-year period of the monitor farm programme. Those who attend can also suggest topics and speakers for future meetings and discuss issues that are important to those who farm in the Borders. 

Robert Mitchell is excited about being part of the three-year monitor farm programme. He said: “I believe that if you are not going forwards, you are going backwards. Standing still isn’t an option for us.”

The event on 22nd February will begin with the Mitchell family sharing their cattle, sheep and general farming policies during a guided tour of both Whitriggs Farm and nearby Denholm Hill Farm. The group will then move to the Auld Cross Keys pub in Denholm for lunch. After which, Doug Bell from QMS will give an overview of the new monitor farm programme and the opportunities for local farmers to get involved in the management groups and local business groups that will also be established.

Also at the meeting Jonny Williams, beef and lamb procurement officer from Farmstock Scotland, will provide an overview of current market trends in the red meat sector and the importance of producers meeting market spec. The group will then discuss the relative strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for Whitriggs Farm and highlight some potential ideas for future monitor farm meetings.

For catering purposes, those interested in coming along to the launch should contact Stephen Young, one of the project facilitators on 07502 339613 or email stephen.young@saos.coop.

For more information about the monitor farm programme, click here