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North Ayrshire Monitor Farm Looks to Improve Grassland Management

Making the most from grass will be the main topic for discussion at the next meeting of the North Ayrshire Monitor farm on Thursday 6 July. 

John Howie runs the 140-hectare Girtridge Farm in partnership with his mother Margaret and sister Mary. They also own an extra 35 hectares of grazing nearby. Mr Howie is keen to make the most of the grass at Girtridge and to finish as many of the farms 200 store cattle off grass as he can.

He said: “We have heard of other farmers who have managed to reduce their feed costs and finish their stock quicker by improving their grazing, so are keen to see how we can improve things here at Girtridge.”

Local farmer and chairman of the management group at Girtridge, Craig Bryson, will chair the meeting and explain how he has managed to reduce his feed costs for his 300-head finishing unit at Newmilns by improving silage quality.

At the meeting, farmer, Nuffield scholar and self-confessed ‘grass geek’ Michael Blanche will talk about the importance of soil quality in grassland management, describe some of the different grazing techniques and describe how they can be established on farm.  

“The better you can use a pasture, the more you can make from it. Grazing fields at the right time, at the right height, with the right amount of stock, is the key to making the most from grass,” said Mr Blanche.

As well as the 200 bought-in cattle that they finish, the Howies run their own small suckler herd as well as 140 breeding ewes. At the meeting Mr Howie will give an update on what has been happening at the farm since the last meeting in May.

One of the things that has been established at Girtridge this year is paddock grazing for the cattle. The Howie’s have established eight, two hectare paddocks using electric fencing. They then move a group of 79 finishing cattle to a fresh paddock every few days, aiming for a target rotation of 21 days. The benefits of managing grassland in this way will be discussed at the next meeting and there will be a tour of the fields so that those who attend will be able to see the paddock grazing in action. 

The impact of Girtridge’s farming activities on the climate will also be highlighted and the results of their recently undertaken carbon audit shared. Facilitator Carol-Anne Warnock will then lead a discussion to explore how the Howies can reduce the farm’s carbon footprint resulting in both environmental and financial benefits.

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, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

Girtridge Farm will be hosting regular 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 next North Ayrshire Monitor Farm meeting will begin at 10.30am on Thursday 6 July and will be held at Girtridge Farm, Dundonald, KA2 9BX. Lunch will be included and the meeting is due to end at 3pm.

To book your lunch and confirm your attendance 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 click here or visit: cereals.ahdb.org.uk.