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The Mitchells from Whitriggs Farm

The opportunities of using technology and data to support farming businesses, as well as career opportunities for the next generation of farmers, will be discussed at the next Borders Monitor farm meeting on Wednesday 22 May.

Starting with tea and coffee at 10am, the meeting at Whitriggs Farm near Denholm, will offer a strong line up of speakers including David Owen from Owen Farm Services, who will highlight the potential uses of data and technology in agriculture. If weather permits he will also demonstrate the practical uses for drones in farming.

He said: “The use of drones has increased in popularity in agriculture in recent years. The devices can be fitted with cameras and sensors to help farmers assess their fields from above for poor yielding areas or to spot problems such as soil compaction. They can also be used to monitor livestock and survey farmland.”

Robert and Lesley Mitchell farm in partnership with their son Stuart. The run a herd of 170 suckler cows at their 442 hectare farm as well as a breeding herd of 125  red deer. Stuart took on the responsibility of the day to day decision making at Whitriggs last year and is keen to ensure that Whitriggs continues to develop.

He said: “I am very keen to future proof the business here at Whitriggs. The use of more advanced technology in today’s agriculture is becoming more easily accessible and I feel we must use this to our benefit to make our farm more efficient and productive.”

Following the previous Borders Monitor meeting in March, Sion Williams from Buccleuch Estates will share his experiences of employing young people, highlighting  the benefits and a checklist of what needs to be considered. He will be joined by one of the apprentices from Buccleuch who will talk about how they have benefited from the opportunity to work as an apprentice.

This session will be run jointly  with the Borders Machinery Ring, who will highlight the opportunities for farmers in the area to get involved in a new pre-apprenticeship programme.  This supports both young people and mentors farmers to encourage more young people to join the industry  and develop the skills needed.

Finally, cumbrian Farmer Thomas Stobart will discuss his farming methods, in particular how he farms for the benefit of the environment, including grazing management. Mr Stobart runs 800 breeding ewes and 280 cattle on 780- hectare Croglin High Hall Farm in Armathwaite. At the meeting on 22 May Mr Stobart will explain how he has made substantial changes to his farm over the last five years in order to reduce input costs. He has established a successful rotational grazing system which has significantly increased livestock growth rates and decreased feed and fertiliser costs.

He said: “We realised that if we focused on soil health and improving our grazing management, would not only increase out profitability but would have a positive effect on the environment.”

After a BBQ lunch there will be a farm tour and the Mitchells will report on their calving  at Whitriggs this year and their plans for the third year of the monitor farm programme.

Whitriggs is one of nine monitor farms established in Scotland as part of a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds with funding from the Scottish Government. The aim of the monitor farm programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

The meeting on Wednesday 22 May will be held at Whitriggs farm, near Denholm, TD9 8QR and will begin at 10am. The meeting is expected to finish by 3pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

To reserve your place (and lunch!) please contact Stephen Young, one of the project facilitators, on 07502 339613 or email stephen.young@saos.coop.

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