Strone Farm near Fort William, was revealed today (November 10th 2016) by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds, as the first of a tranche of nine new monitor farms being established in Scotland.
The 1,200 hectare hill farm, located in the Great Glen, one of Scotland’s most scenic, but also wettest areas, is run by Chris Cameron in partnership with his father Malcolm and mother Eileen.
The family, who are tenants of Lochiel and Achnacarry Estate, were inspired to become monitor farmers after attending meetings held on two previous monitor farms on Mull and North Connel, Argyll.
They have already successfully introduced some changes in response to some of the main challenges the farm faces – including an annual rainfall of 120 inches and a major fox problem at lambing time.
However, they feel there is plenty of scope for the farm business to benefit from further changes and fresh ideas which could improve the efficiency of the business which runs 550 North Country Cheviot ewes and 40 pure Limousin cows.
Chris Cameron, who has three young children with his wife Tina, will be taking over the reins from his father in the months ahead. He is particularly keen to have a very clear understanding of the farm’s performance by carefully benchmarking figures.
Mr Cameron said: “We are far from perfect and we know that there is plenty of scope to make improvements to our business through being part of the monitor farm project.
“We’re also really looking forward to sharing the benefits of having a monitor farm in Lochaber with other farmers in the area. That said, we are also a bit nervous!”
One unusual challenge which the Cameron family face is that most of the farm’s better quality grass, is found on the other side of the Caledonian Canal to the main farm. Access to this grazing land involves going under the Caledonian Canal through a tunnel which isn’t large enough for anything other than a quad bike.
Malcolm Cameron commented: “We are on the edge of agriculture here in many respects. We try our best, but any small improvement we can make as a result of being monitor farmers, will make a big difference to our farms productivity.”
The Cameron family are big fans of the Limousin breed which they feel perform very well for them, and store calves from the herd regularly top the sale prices at Dingwall.
“We originally had hill breeds but the move to Limousins has seen good results. We think the Limousins give us the best confirmation and they work well for us at Strone,” said Chris Cameron.
The new three-year monitor farm programme is being run jointed by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds. It is establishing a group of farms to serve 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.
Preparations are underway to hold the first meeting at the new Lochaber Monitor Farm early in the new year. If anyone is interested in being involved in the project, they should contact the project facilitators, Niall Campbell & Morven MacArthur, SAC Consulting Oban on 01631 563093, or email FBSOban@sac.co.uk
For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.qmscotland.co.uk