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Lochaber Monitor Farm Focuses on Alternative Cattle Wintering Options

The exceptionally wet summer is posing a real winter challenge for livestock farmers round the country with straw and quality winter forage in short supply.

The steps farmers can take to manage their cattle through the winter, in light of these additional  challenges, will be top of the agenda at the next Lochaber Monitor Farm meeting on Thursday 16 November.

Strone Farm, a 1,200-hectare hill farm located in the Great Glen, is run by Chris Cameron in partnership with his father Malcolm and mother Eileen. As well as a flock of 500 cheviot ewes, the family have a herd of 40 pedigree Limousin cows, which produce store calves.

The meeting on 16 November, which will begin at 11am and include lunch, will discuss the issues faced by both in-wintering and out-wintering systems and alterative feeding strategies will be considered.

With specialist input from Derek Hanton of SAC Consulting, John Smith, nutritionist with Harbro and Mairi Thom from Crown vets, the existing wintering system and future plans for the various management groups of cattle at Strone will be examined and critiqued.

"I’m keen to hear from the speakers and to look at identifying potential improvements in the way we go about over-wintering our cattle here at Strone. I am sure our business can benefit from changes to optimise cow condition and performance,” said host monitor farmer Chris Cameron, who is looking forward to the meeting.

Livestock farmers in the west have struggled to produce good quality silage due to the poor  summer season this year. Silage from the monitor farm and other farms in the area has been analysed to assess this years’ quality.

Niall Campbell of SAC Consulting Oban, one of the facilitators of the Lochaber Monitor farm, believes all suckler cow producers in the area would benefit from attending the forthcoming meeting.

“This meeting aims to address how farmers can deal with the lack of supply of good quality  silage as a result of this summer’s poor weather,” said Mr Campbell.

“Our three speakers will suggest a step-by-step approach to deal with the effect of the poor summer on forage quality. We will also explore silage yield and highlight the essential minerals for cattle.”

Speakers at the meeting will also suggest how best to manage the health and nutrition of stock bulls.

As the Strone cattle are in-wintered, those attending the meeting on 16 November will have an opportunity to view the cows’ condition at the start of winter and see this year’s crop of calves.

The Lochaber Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The aim of the programme, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

The meetings are open and free for all farmers to attend.  Attendees will also have an input into topics covered, speakers invited to meetings and visits to other enterprises and businesses.

To book your attendance (and lunch!) please contact Niall Campbell or Morven MacArthur on 01631 563093 or email fbsoban@sac.co.uk.

For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.qmscotland.co.uk or cereals.ahdb.org.uk.