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Optimising livestock feed vital for Angus Monitor Farm

Rob, Tom, Rory and Alison Stodart

Maintaining feed levels after a difficult spring will be on many farmers’ minds right now, and this challenging topic will be tackled at the coming meeting of the Angus Monitor on 17 May.

Rotational grazing will be covered by Poppy Frater, a sheep and grassland specialist with SAC Consulting. While the Stodarts have been trying out rotational grazing this year they are keen to take a more systematic approach and the group will be exploring how to get the most out of the grass through managing key areas such as stocking densities and shift patterns.

Monitor Farmer Rob Stodart says: “Getting the most out of grass is critical for us, especially as we have been building our sheep numbers and we need to feed them efficiently throughout the year. Grass growth has been very slow so far this season, I would normally look to rent grass parks for ewes, but it’s an expensive option so I want to find other solutions.”

Another avenue the family is exploring with consultant Kirsten Williams is using fodder beet. Fodder beet is of particular interest to the Stodarts as while it’s not yet a popular fodder crop locally they have heard positive reports of in terms of yield, nutrition and its potential to improve soil structure. Kirstin will explain more about the crop and also introduce the group to other alternatives such as chicory and plantain.

“We’re putting in five acres of fodder beet this year,” Rory Stodart explains. “I’m told that it has the potential to feed a lot of livestock over a fairly small area, and we need to give the grass a break over the winter and encourage early spring growth. Putting the ewes on the fodder beet should allow us to do that.”

Of course, the family has also been looking into other areas to improve animal feed management, and they will reveal the results of one such pilot at the meeting. Last autumn some of their spring barley was under sown with grass for winter grazing for the sheep. Having tried this previously and found that the grass growth led to a decreased spring barley yield the Stodarts are hoping to see better results this year.

Finally, Robert McCoul, an agronomist from the Glenside Group, will discuss how to improve yields in poorly performing arable fields. One such field at the Mill has long been a mystery, with the usual tests unable to solve why its yields are low. Robert has been digging deeper into the field’s soil biology to find an explanation, and he will share his results at the meeting.

Mill of Inverarity is 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.

The meeting will be held at Mill of Inverarity Farm, Forfar, Angus, DD8 2JN, starting at 11am and closing at 2.30pm. The event is free to attend but to assist with catering attendees should book a place by contacting Stacey Hamilton by phone (01569 762305) or email (frbsstonehaven@sac.co.uk).

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