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Packed Agenda for next Shetland Monitor Farm Meeting

Health planning, the marketing of Shetland hill lamb and opportunities for young people working in agriculture are just some of the topics to be discussed at the next meeting of the Shetland Monitor Farm on Saturday 17th March.

Gary Mitchell, dairy farmer from Stranraer and Vice-Chairman of NFU Scotland, is known for his enthusiasm for encouraging young people into farming and identifying training and employment opportunities for them. At the meeting, which will begin at Bigton Hall at 11am, he will speak about how taking part in the Rural Leadership Programme ten years ago changed his way of thinking.

The Rural Leadership Programme is aimed at business managers and employees of rural businesses who have a desire to develop their leadership skills and grow their business. To date, over 450 people have completed the programme, including farmers from across Scotland.

 “It’s been ten years since I completed the programme and I can honestly say that I grew so much, both personally and professionally, by taking part. It has changed the way I think, both about farming and politics, and I would thoroughly recommend others to consider the programme,” said Mr Mitchell.

Also at the meeting, Jim Tait of Shetland Vets will talk about the benefits of livestock health planning. Sisters Kirsty and Aimee Budge know that there are many advantages to being proactive about health planning, including an improvement in animal welfare, financial gain and increased farm efficiency.

“We know that the farmers and crofters on Shetland who have developed animal health plans are really seeing the benefits of doing it and this is another subject we’ll be looking at, at the meeting,” said Kirsty Budge.

As Bigton farm, Shetland’s Monitor farm, is a lowland farm and doesn’t produce purebred Shetland lamb, a Shetland Hill Lamb sub-group has been established to feed into the monitor farm community group and there will be an update from the sub-group members following their inaugural meeting in February.

Mr Eric Graham, chairman of the Shetland Lamb Group commented: “We hope that the members of the Group, which consists of hill farmers and crofters from across Shetland, will work together to identify opportunities to market Shetland hill lambs and ways to finish Shetland lambs on Shetland, before they are shipped to the mainland for processing.”

Aimee and Kirsty Budge are keen to share what has been happening at Bigton Farm since their last meeting in December. “Lots has been going on at the farm. We conducted a carbon audit recently  which has highlighted some changes we could make to improve efficiencies on the farm, and we are also in the process of putting in  an environmental grant application  to AECS to help fund the management of our heaths and wetlands and other grasslands around the farm” said Kirsty Budge.

“We also bought a new Shorthorn bull that we are keen to show folk, and we also have scanning results for both our cows and our ewes that we plan to share and get feedback on from the group,” added Aimee Budge.

The Shetland 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 meeting on Saturday 17th March will begin at Bigton Hall at 11am and end at 3pm. Lunch will be provided.

To book your attendance (and lunch!) please contact Graham Fraser, SAC Consulting Lerwick on 01595 693520 or email frbslerwick@sac.co.uk

For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk