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Easter Ross Family Aims to Increase Flock Size and Kilos Per Hectare
The long-term sheep strategy of the host family of the new Easter Ross Grazing Group is to almost double the size of their flock, lower costs and increase the kilos of lamb they produce per hectare.
Bayfield Farm near Nigg, farmed by Duncan Scott in partnership with his parents David and Gill, will host one of six new Grazing Groups which are being set up throughout Scotland by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
The initiative is aimed at improving livestock producers’ profitability by maximising the kilograms of meat produced per hectare from grass with the first meeting of the Easter Ross Grazing Group taking place on Wednesday 23rd July, starting at 1.30pm.
The Scotts’ farm business, based about 40 miles north of Inverness, includes the main home unit, Cadbollmount a 700 acres owned unit which is largely used for growing cereals, and a further 500 acres of more upland grassland rented locally. This includes the tenanted Bayfield Farm, which is largely comprised of improved hill and will be the focus of the Grazing Group activity.
The Scotts went out of sheep farming nine years ago when Duncan was away at agricultural college but then returned to sheep production four years ago with the purchase of 800 Cheviot ewes. These Cheviot ewes were put to Easy Care tups with the female “Chevease” progeny from this cross retained.
The Scott's sell all their lambs live through the Dingwall and Highland Marts ring and last year the majority of lambs were finished, averaging 39kgs, with 180 being sold store.
“At the moment we are not managing to finish all the lambs off grass and we need to use stubble turnips and some creep feed. We start selling lambs in December, with the majority going away in February, March and April,” said Duncan Scott.
The farm has one employee, Adrian Munro, who assists with both tractor work and stock work. Duncan Scott is, however, focused on increasing his ewe numbers and, if all goes to plan, he envisages taking on a shepherd once the flock is up to around 1400 ewes.
As well as running 500 acres of cereals – winter barley, oilseed rape, winter wheat, spring barley and oats – the family runs 70 suckler cows which are Aberdeen Angus cross and Simmental cross and these are put to Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn bulls.
“We operate a very low maintenance sheep enterprise and, with Dad likely to start taking things a bit easier in the coming years, it is likely that more of my time will be taken up with the cattle and arable side of the business which is the side he is most involved in at the moment.
“We’d like to be looking at taking someone on to help with the sheep work in five or six years time but our focus will remain on producing lambs using a low maintenance system,” said Duncan Scott.
The Chevease ewe will remain at the heart of this system but the Scotts may move to introduce a Texel or Suffolk terminal sire.
“I became scunnered with Cheviots to be honest – we wanted something more suited to a simple system.”
All the ewes are lambed outdoors and this year they scanned at 160%, although this fell to around 140% at marking, which was a little disappointing, said Mr Scott.
The Scotts are looking forward to being Grazing Group hosts and to improving the kilos of lamb they can produce per hectare.
“The challenge we have is that we have extremely wet winters and re-seeded land would not stand up well. We also have a very short growing season for grass which doesn’t really get growing until late April/early May and tails off quickly in July,” said Mr Scott.
“My goal would be to get to a point where we would be able to finish lambs straight off their mothers before weaning them onto aftermaths.
“Our sheep enterprise is profitable and low hassle but we are undoubtedly understocked at the moment and as we increase our flock size, I’m sure we can make better use of our grass.”
For further information on the Easter Ross and other QMS Grazing Groups and attending future meetings please contact Kirsty at QMS on 0131 472 4040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.