Corskie Farm, on the Morayshire coast, has been selected as the eighth of nine new monitor farms being established in Scotland as part of a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The enterprise is run by Iain Green in partnership with his mother and father, and the family have been farming in the area for over 60 years.
Precision farming is likely to be a key component of the project in Morayshire with Iain keen to use it to help cut costs and increase yields. Just outside Elgin, Corskie Farm is a large mixed enterprise with over 688 hectares devoted to cereals, and Iain currently records and reviews as much data as he can on his crops, to help improve their performance.
“I use an online system developed by Agrovista which has been a big help over the last three years, increasing our understanding of the soils, the inputs, the weather, and of course the yields.” Iain explains. “Having a more in depth understanding has helped us to develop more focused and flexible fungicide programmes, and ensure we are making the best use of our slurry and manures.”
As well as developing that system further, Iain also plans to increase the monitoring of their 380 Simmental suckler cows, again with an eye on efficiency.
He says: “We’ve been building the size of the herd over the last few years, but now I think we need to look at how we ensure it is as productive and profitable as possible. I’d like to increase monitoring of liveweight gains, and also look at how much meat we are producing per cow.”
All the farms on the programme will be using Farmbench, a benchmarking tool developed by AHDB to help farmers understand and compare full costs of production at both enterprise and farm level.
In total Iain and his team farm 1,416 hectares of land (809 of which is owned) of cereals, sheep, cattle and pigs. As well as the 380 commercial Simmental crosses, the farm has 200 pedigree Simmental cows, 600 Mule and Mule cross Texel sheep, and an indoor breeding herd of 380 sows. While the majority of their arable lands goes for spring barley for distilling (over 526 hectares), they also grow winter barley, winter wheat and spring oats, much of which are used to feed the livestock.
“The different farm enterprises are fairly well integrated,” Iain says, “as well as growing our own feed through the cereals side, we also use the manure from the livestock on the arable fields and pasture. We apply it differently in different areas, using our soil and yield maps to make sure we are controlling our inputs and maintaining soil fertility and nutrient balance.”
With so much land to cover, Iain is hugely appreciative of his dedicated team of twelve full time employees, without whom Corskie Farm wouldn’t be able to operate. He is also assisted by his two daughters, Laura (20) and Jemma (16), who both plan to work on the farm full time in the future.
“What we do here wouldn’t be possible without our committed and knowledgeable staff, and I try to make sure they are really involved, part of day to day decision making,” Iain says. “I was lucky to be given responsibility early on by my father and grandfather, and that level of involvement shows people they have a real stake in the farm and its success.”
Following this example of taking on responsibility young, Iain is keen to see both Laura and Jemma get involved in the monitor farm programme, having found similar projects helpful in developing his own expertise.
He says: “I think the programme will be good not only for me and the staff, but for Laura and Jemma as well. It will give them the opportunity to learn from other farmers, see totally new practices and try some of them out. There is no better way to learn.”
The new three-year monitor farm programme is being run jointly by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals & 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.
The first meeting of the new Morayshire Monitor Farm will be on Wednesday 8 February. Those interested in being involved in the project should contact Samantha Stewart on 01343 548 789 / firstname.lastname@example.org or Derek Hanton on 01463 233 266 / email@example.com.