The new programme is looking for potential monitor farms in the following areas: Nithsdale; Scottish Borders; North Ayrshire; Lothians; Mearns and Angus; Lochaber; Morayshire; Sutherland; and Shetland.
Monitor farms have established a strong track record in Scotland and the new programme would build on the success of the initiative which launched in 2003. The new monitor farms programme will be run jointly by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds and is funded by £1.25million secured from the Scottish Government and European Union’s Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund.
The aim of this new programme is to establish farms, typical of their area, as monitor farms to help improve the profitability, productivity and sustainability of producers through practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practice and the discussion of up-to-date issues. This programme will adopt a whole farm approach and will work to build resilient businesses, introduce innovative ideas and highlight the importance of collaboration.
Andrew and Jennifer Baillie from Carstairs Mains farm, near Carnwath, Lanarkshire were QMS monitor farmers between 2012 and 2015. They began farming at Carnwath in 2000 and since then they have improved their grazing system, resulting in an increased stocking rate by 50% and have increased their flock size from 200 ewes to 650 ewes. They credit much of the improvements on their farm to the monitor farm process.
“I jumped at the chance to be a monitor farm, as it was critical for us to maximise output when we had no entitlement. The changes I have made and benefits I have seen are a direct result of being part of the process,” said Andrew Baillie.
Their praise of the monitor farm programme is echoed by Ed and Kate Rowell from Hundleshope, a beef and sheep upland farm near Peebles and previous monitor farmers.
“Being a monitor farm has been absolutely fantastic. We have met lots of new people, it has opened lots of doors for us and we have new contacts in the business world. We have all really enjoyed the whole process,” said Kate Rowell.
“When we were first approached to become monitor farmers I must admit I was very hesitant. However, by the end of the three year programme I can say that it has been brilliant,” said Ed Rowell.
“We have learnt a huge amount and have come on leaps and bounds in silage making, sheep recording and the scanning percentage in our hill flock has increased from 80-90% to 122%.
He added: “It has been a huge learning curve and has been a huge positive aspect in our farming enterprise. I would definitely encourage other people to become monitor farmers if they get an opportunity.”
Each of the nine new monitor farms will be supported by a facilitation team and its own management team. Each monitor farm will also have an associated business group that will evaluate solutions and best practice before sharing its findings, both with the wider community groups and more generally, through various media channels including a dedicated website.
The criteria for selection specify that farming has to be the full-time profession of at least one of the family members and the farmers need to be willing to disclose information about their businesses with a group of neighbouring farmers and embrace the opportunity for innovation on their farms.
The appointed facilitators will work with their monitor farmer to show how the use of accurate baseline and benchmarking information can help to improve the profitability of the monitor farm and other farm businesses in the area.
For further information and to download an application form visit www.qmscotland.co.uk.