The Lothians Monitor Farm’s next meeting on Thursday 25 May will drill into both farms’ financial figures with a focus on business performance and benchmarking. The group will also find out more about the arable and livestock enterprises of Prestonhall Farms and Saughland Farm.
Both farms are now part of the Monitor Farm Scotland initiative, managed by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
The aim of the programme, which is funded by the Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses through practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practice and the discussion of up-to-date issues.
Monitor Farmer Bill Gray, who manages Prestonhall Farms, explains: “We have spent time sifting through our physical and financial data to start looking at the performance of our farms using benchmarking tools and hope to share some of this with the group. “We also have significant arable and livestock expertise in our management group and wider community group. We would like to tap into this expertise as we drive round and look at the soils, livestock and crops. Hopefully we can get some good interactive discussion as we focus on each sector.”
The event will kick off at 10.30am with a morning session devoted the farms’ current financial performance, data generated using the new AHDB Farmbench programme. This meeting will set the benchmark, providing a base which the group can use to decide where savings and or changes need to be made.
The afternoon session will offer the attendees the choice of joining smaller arable or livestock focused groups, so they can focus on the areas most relevant to them.
Facilitator Colin MacPhail explains: “Having two farms hosting the Lothians Monitor Farm gives us a lot to look at; from agronomy policy to sheep genetics and herd fertility. We want to make sure those farmers attending are learning about those topics most relevant to their business while still appreciating how those sectors and topics come to together to form the whole business enterprise.”
The host farmers and members of the management group will lead discussions detailing the arable at Prestonhall and the livestock at Saughland. This session will give the group a better understanding of the current farming techniques and systems in place which will form the foundation of future business improvements.
Monitor Farmer Pete Eccles will discuss how Saughland is faring with lambing outside and using a new paddock grazing system. He says: "We are almost finished lambing and calving and so far, with the exception of a day of snow, the weather has been on our side. We are just starting out on our journey with outdoor lambing and rotational grazing and are therefore learning as we go. We are keen to engage with the group, share with the group and learn from experience within the group to ensure we can maximise the success of our new system.”
On the arable side, Bill Gray hopes to look in more depth at recent soil scanning and analysis results and compare them to technical data from aerial scanning using a drone. He says: “We’ve been using GPS variable data for some time now but perhaps we should be looking to establish its true value and whether what we are doing currently is relevant and cost effective. We might even try to organise a drone demonstration. In addition, we will focus on topical crop issues as we take a farm tour.”
Over 90 farmers attended the first meeting and a management group of local farmers and others involved in agriculture has now been established to work with the community group and facilitators to drive the project over the next three years.
The meeting will be held at Saughland Farm, Pathhead, Midlothian, EH37 5XP, with teas and coffees available from 10am. The meeting will run from 10.30am to 2.30pm with lunch provided. The event is free of charge but to assist with catering it would be appreciated if you can book a place by contacting Colin MacPhail on 07747 046461 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the monitor farm programme visit cereals.ahdb.org.uk or www.qmscotland.co.uk.