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North Ayrshire’s New Monitor Farm Prepares for First Meeting

Livestock farmer John Howie of Girtridge Farm, Dundonald is busy preparing to open his gates to the local farming community as part of a new Scotland wide-programme.

Girtridge Farm was recently announced as the North Ayrshire Monitor Farm and on Wednesday 1 February will be holding the first in a series of free meetings.

The North Ayrshire 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.

Girtridge Farm will be hosting a series of 18 meetings over the next three years as the North Ayrshire Monitor Farm. The focus will be on the technical and financial challenges that their business, and many other farming businesses in the area, face.

The 140-hectare farm sits in an elevated position just outside Dundonald, and the family also own a further 35 hectares of grazing land nearby.

The main farm enterprise is buying in store cattle and finishing them for sale direct to local abattoirs but the family also have a herd of 10 suckler cows. The farm also runs 140 cross ewes producing Suffolk and Texel prime lambs that are mainly sold through nearby Ayr market. Everything grown on the farm is used on-farm including 56 hectares of silage and hay and 28 hectares of spring barley.

The Howies feel fortunate that Girtridge is very versatile. This means they are not restricted to one type of farming policy and they are happy to consider a future change in direction as a result of the monitor farm process.

John Howie commented: “I am really looking forward to learning from other farmers and looking at what we could do at Girtridge to strengthen our business. I think it will be a huge learning curve, but one that I will benefit from, as well as the local farmers who get involved.” 

Raymond Crerar from SAC Consulting, a division of SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College and one of North Ayrshire Monitor Farm project facilitators, encouraged other farmers in the area to get involved with the monitor farm programme.

He said: “The Monitor Farm Programme is an excellent opportunity for producers to ultimately improve the profitability of their business and not just that of the host farmers.”

He added: “Over the course of the three year programme we will look at in detail many different aspects of beef and sheep production, share expertise and best practise, innovation and new technologies through hands on learning. I encourage farmers to engage with the programme and come along to the meetings. “

The first North Ayrshire Monitor Farm meeting will begin at 10.30am on Wednesday 1 February and will be held at Girtridge, Dundonald, KA2 9BX, where John Howie will give a brief tour of the farm and share information about their farm business.

The meeting will then move to nearby Montgomerie Hall in Dundonald for lunch after which, after which, Andrew Baillie from Carstairs Mains near Lanark, will speak about his experiences as a past Clyde Monitor Farm host. He will be joined by Willie Harper, a farmer from Bridge of Weir and past chairman of the Clyde Monitor Farm management group, who will urge attendees to get involved in the management group for the monitor farm. This group are the driving force behind the monitor farm programme and help shape the direction of all future farm meetings.

Gavin Hill from SAC Consulting, a division of SRUC, Scotland’s Rural college will attend and give an industry outlook for beef and representatives from QMS and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds will give an overview of the monitor farm programme. The meeting will finish at 3pm.

To book your lunch please contact facilitators Raymond Crerar and Carol-Anne Warnock, SAC Consulting Ayr on 01292 525252, or email FBSAyr@sac.co.uk

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