Borders Monitor Farm Looks to Improve Performance & Reduce costs

Opportunities to improve livestock performance and reduce costs will be the focus of the next Borders monitor farm meeting on Wednesday 28 June.

Robert and Lesley Mitchell, along with son Stuart, farm at Whitriggs near Denholm. The family is constantly looking for ways to improve the performance of their suckler herd and their Lleyn flock. However, they are aware that everything they do must be cost effective.

The Mitchells have 140 suckler cows which are a combination of Beef Shorthorn cross and Aberdeen Angus cross. At the meeting next week, the family, along with Catherine Gayle from Hawick vets, will lead a discussion on fertility and synchronisation.

“We have a spring calving herd and are keen to tighten up our calving period if we can. We think there is a potential benefit in synchronising our cows, especially our heifers, to ensure that they get into calf quickly and are looking forward to hearing what other local farmers think,” said Robert Mitchell.

The Mitchells also run 1,000 Lleyn ewes and have routinely bolused their lambs each year with a trace element and mineral supplement.

At the meeting next week, Lesley Mitchell will give an update on the farms activities since their last meeting. The family will then introduce a trial that is running at Whitriggs this summer to look at options for mineral trace element supplementation. 

The farm is splitting some of this year’s lambs into three groups - one group will receive a mineral and trace element bolus, another group will receive a mineral and trace element injection and the third group won’t receive any supplementation. The weights of the three groups will be monitored throughout the summer to see there is any different in growth rates between the groups. Alongside this, faecal egg counts will be taken to monitor worm burden.

Stuart Mitchell commented: “Our aim at Whitriggs is for our lambs to finish quickly off grass, at minimal cost. We believe that giving lambs a bolus boosts their growth rates and helps them reach their finished weight quicker. However, this trial will allow us to properly assess the extent of any boost in financial returns as a result of using the boluses.”

Whitriggs has 442 hectares of mainly semi-permanent and permanent grassland. At the last meeting in May, the community group discussed ways in which the Mitchell family could improve their grassland management. They have since established eight hectares of paddock grazing for their cattle and will share their initial thoughts on the system with the group at the meeting.

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 and is being funded by £1.25million secured from the Scottish Government and European Union’s Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund.

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.

A management group of local farmers and others involved in agriculture has now been established to work with the community group and facilitators to drive the project over the next three years.

The meeting on 28 June will start at Whitriggs Farm, Denholm, TD9 8QR at 10am. Scotch Beef burgers will be on the lunch menu and the meeting is expected to finish by 2.30pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

For catering purposes, those interested in coming along on 28 June should contact Stephen Young, one of the project facilitators, on 07502 339613 or email

For more information about the monitor farm programme visit or