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Peter Eccles and Bill Gray from Lothians Monitor farm

Lothians Monitor Farm will form closer partnerships with research institutes James Hutton and Moredun over the next eighteen months.

Monitor farmers Peter Eccles and Bill Gray will discuss developing closer ties with scientists, utilising research to improve the efficiency of their livestock and arable enterprises, at the coming Lothians Monitor Farm meeting on 25 July.

They will also look back at the first half of the project focusing on particular successes including the collaboration between their two farms, benchmarking costs with the business group, and the pollinator project run at Prestonhall with SRUC.

For arable farmer Bill Gray the next year will largely be about how to overcome key challenges the sector is facing.

He says: “We want to offer potential solutions to problems, like glyphosate, how would we cope if we lost it? It might have been renewed recently but the direction of travel indicates that chemical use will only be further restricted in future.

“We also want to work with the James Hutton Institute’s Centre for Sustainable Cropping to see how the systems they are developing, which should be more sustainable long-term, could be rolled out commercially.”

Livestock farmer Peter Eccles will be working more this year with the Moredun Research Institute on issues of livestock disease and parasite challenges, as well looking to expand further on potential environment and diversification projects at Saughland Farm.

Peter says: “There’s some really interesting stuff coming up this year. We will be looking at the results and realising the benefits from our new TST (Targeted Selective Treatment) trial on worming lambs and after a difficult autumn and the dry summer so far we need to be really prepared when it comes to the winter feed budget.

“This year we will incorporate fodder beet for the first time into both sheep and cattle rations, but it might not be enough to plug the potential gap caused by a loss in dry matter this summer.”

At this meeting – run by the project’s management team – there will be discussion on both the livestock and arable business figures which have been revealed in the benchmarking group.

The arable updates will focus on the new grain store, outcomes of the new tractor/cultivator and pollinator project, as well as discussion of key issue Prestonhall faces including succession, staff management and rotation. 

On the livestock side there are performance figures to share from the last 18 months as the Saughland sheep flock has increased. After a period of expansion, the management group want to refine the performance and evaluate the industry-leading technologies developed by Moredun and applied at farm level.

For project facilitator Colin MacPhail this coming year will give the team a chance to develop both the collaboration work between the two farms further and embrace innovation.

“When we started this project, we said we wanted to develop a blueprint for successful collaboration between the arable and livestock sectors. We have made good progress but we need to continue to measure the cost benefit of collaboration in more detail so we can put together a toolkit for others to use” Colin says.

“Linking with JHI and Moredun gives us access to some exciting arable and livestock research which we can apply at farm level. Innovation and technology is advancing at an incredible pace and by forging links with these organisations we will have access to new technologies and research as they become available.

“This meeting gives everyone an opportunity to contribute and ensure we are focused on the pertinent issues as we head into the many unknowns of the next 18 months.” 

The Lothians Monitor farm – a partnership between neighbouring farms Saughland and Prestonhall – 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 25 July will begin at Rosemains Farm, Pathhead, EH37 5UQ, all are welcome and the event is free. Tea and coffee will be available from 10am and lunch will be provided, however for catering purposes those interested in coming along on should confirm attendance with Colin MacPhail on 07747 046461 or at colin@macphailconsulting.co.uk. The meeting is expected to finish by 2.30pm.

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