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Nithsdale Monitor Farmers Prepare for Next Meeting

Farmers and others working in the industry are invited to a free meeting on the Nithsdale monitor farm, Clonhie, near Thornhill on Thursday 2nd March when lambing strategies and cow condition scoring will be among the main topics for discussion.

Host farmers Andrew and Aileen Marchant are due to start lambing their flock of 130 Texel ewes inside in March, with their main commercial flock of 770 North Country Cheviots and Lleyns lambing outside at beginning in April.

Mr Marchant said: “Every farmer knows that lambing is probably the busiest time of the year. We don’t bring in extra labour at Clonhie at lambing so Aileen and I work pretty flat out, though our children William (6) and Anna (4) are always keen to help out where they can!

“As we have limited labour, we prepare the sheds for the early lambers in advance and try to get the ewes in the correct condition to minimise problems.”

At the meeting next Thursday, which begins at 10.30am, Mr Marchant and Alistair Padkin will go through Clonhie’s flock management routine, comment on last year’s technical performance and discuss preparation plans for this year’s flock lambing.

The Marchants are happy with their scan results for this year, with the early lambing Texel’s scanning at 176% and the commercial flock scanning at an average of 164%, with just 45 sets of triplets expected. The North Country Cheviots scanned lower than expected this year so the Marchants have been working with their vet, Alistair Padkin from Nithsdale vets, to try to see what the problem might be and to take steps to resolve it.

Mr Marchant said: “Like lots of farms in the area, we are really short of grass at this time of year, so have had to feed our ewes concentrate to maintain condition in late pregnancy. We are keen to look at how we can review this in the future and the potential for growing forage crops at Clonhie.”

The Marchants also have a small herd of Luing Cattle which are due to calve outside at the end April and at the meeting on 2nd March, Rhidian Jones, facilitator for Nithsdale Monitor farm, with give an overview of the herd and talk about the importance of cattle being in the correct condition score.

Mr Jones commented: “Meeting the nutritional requirements of the pregnant suckler cow is vital, irrespective of the size of herd. The Dry Matter content and quality of silage fed is key to achieving strong healthy calves and milky mothers.”

The Nithsdale 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 is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

Clonhie will be hosting regular meetings over the next three years as the Nithsdale Monitor Farm, which will focus on technical and financial challenges that their business, and many other local farming businesses, face.

Colin Forsyth, who farms nearby in Bennan Farm in Tynron, has recently been appointed as the chairman of the management committee for Nithsdale Monitor Farm. He sees clear benefits for local farmers who choose to get involved with the Monitor Farm programme.

Mr Forsyth said: “At one of the most uncertain times for farming in recent history, this three-year project is an opportunity to bring farmers together, to pool their knowledge and to help move their businesses forward. Andrew and Aileen’s enthusiasm and optimism make them ideal hosts.”

After lunch in the Durisdeer Village Hall, Andrew Best of Watsons Seeds, who is also a member of the Nithsdale MF management committee, will share the results of the soil analysis that have been done on Clonhie and discuss the challenges and opportunities to improve fertility and sward production on the farm. The meeting will finish at 2.30pm

The Nithsdale Monitor Farm 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 lunch please contact Judith Hutchison, by 12 noon on Monday 27th February, on 07718 919055 or email judith.agridigm@icloud.com.

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