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Flock Health Top of the Agenda for Borders Monitor Farm

The Mitchell family, who run the Borders Monitor Farm in Denholm, are turning their attention to how they can safeguard their flock from some of the main infectious diseases that can affect sheep productivity.

At the next monitor farm meeting on Wednesday 10 January, the family will look at some of the factors limiting flock performance on their farm.

Husband and wife team Robert and Lesley Mitchell, run Whitriggs Farm and neighbouring Denholm Hill Farm, along with their son Stuart. They are constantly looking for ways to improve the performance of the livestock on their 480 hectare family farm, which has 1,000 Lleyn ewes as well as 140 suckler cows.

“Flock health is very important to us,” said Lesley Mitchell. “There are lots of sheep diseases that can affect productivity and we want to ensure that we remain fully aware of them all, so that we can develop robust health plans with our vets and optimise the health of our flock going forward.”

At the meeting, the Mitchells will give an update on what has been happening on their farm since their last meeting in November.

They will be joined by Lynn Gibson from SAC Vet services at St Boswells, who will talk about the infectious “iceberg diseases” which could be affecting flocks without farmers realising.

The main “iceberg diseases” in UK sheep are Maedi Visna, Johne’s disease, Jaagsiekte (OPA), Caseous Lympadenitis (CLA) and border disease. They are called “iceberg diseases” because there are very few diagnosed cases (tip of the iceberg) but in fact there are far more infected animals than farmers and vets recognise. 

The meeting will highlight the control programmes that are available for each of the “iceberg diseases” and help farmers develop effective control plans for their own farms.

Another topic for discussion at the meeting will be the implementation of recommendations from an environmental audit. As part of the monitor farm programme, an environmental audit was recently carried out at Whitriggs. 

“An environmental audit is something that any farm can do to identify the full extent of its environmental impacts,” said facilitator Stephen Young.

“It can also be used to determine whether the farm is eligible for any environmental schemes and gain an understanding of how it can sustain or improve its environmental performance going forward.”

Mr Young will share the results of Whitrigg’s environmental audit at the next meeting and then lead a discussion with the group to see how its recommendations can fit in with the Mitchells’ current farming practices, which include recently having felled and sold an area of woodland.

Whitriggs farm is one of nine 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 10 January will be held at the Auld Cross Keys Hotel at Denholm, TD9 8NU and will begin at 11am. Lunch will be provided and the meeting is expected to finish by 3pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

For catering purposes, those interested in coming along on 10 January 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