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Trevor Cook with the Ballantynes from Clynelish Farm

How livestock farmers can best profit from a pasture-based system and the benefits technology can bring to rural businesses will be examined at the next Sutherland monitor farm meeting on Tuesday 4 June.

At the meeting, which is being held at Clynelish Farm in Brora, Trevor Cook, a respected vet and sheep and beef production consultant from New Zealand, will share his knowledge on all aspects of livestock production from grass-based systems.

Vic and Jason Ballantyne have seen the benefits of improving their grassland management at Clynelish. The rotational grazing system they have established is working well, and they can now easily identify fields that can be taken out of the system for silage production. This has lowered their feed costs in winter. The grazing season at Clynelish has been extended too; this year they turned out their cattle on 8 April, two weeks earlier than they have been able to do before.

The Ballantynes are looking forward to welcoming Trevor back to Clynelish on 4 June.

“Trevor has provided valuable support and guidance to us over the last few years and is a huge source of information,” said Jason Ballantyne.

“We really like the way he challenges us to think outside the box and motivates us to keep making improvements to our grassland management.”

As well as discussing how farmers can make the most from their grass, Mr Cook will share suggestions for those interested in growing and feeding fodder beet. This crop is something that Vic and Jason Ballantyne are keen to establish at Clynelish to help feed their ewes over the winter months. Along with other farmers from the Monitor Farm Scotland network, they have sown a series of trial plots on their farm. This project started this year to investigate and test methods of collecting and sharing knowledge and experience of managing fodder beet in Scotland.

Trevor Cook will also lead a session on the practical control of parasitic gut worms in grazing livestock and will explain how farmers can manage their grazing land and stock to minimise the development of anthelmintic (wormer) resistance.

As well as a farm tour, the Ballantynes will demonstrate some of the technology they have invested in recently through Monitor Farm innovation funding to help them improve the performance of their livestock, as well as save them time and money.

The first of these is a newly installed sheep weighing and handling system, that used in conjunction with EID technology will allow the Ballantynes to manage the performance of both their sheep and growing lambs.

Victoria Ballantyne will also demonstrate the drone that she used to monitor stock remotely during lambing and calving this year. The Ballantynes have also purchased a ‘’Vetmarker’’ lamb docking chute. This piece of equipment can be used to make routine tasks like ear tagging, castrating, tail docking and treating lambs quicker and easier. The Ballantynes are keen to share the benefit of this kit and it will be available free of charge to other sheep farmers in the area to use on their own farms.

 Clynelish Farm 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 at Clynelish farm on Tuesday 4 June is free to attend and open to all. It will begin at 11am, with coffee and registration from 10.30am. Lunch is included.

For catering purposes, anyone interested in attending the meeting should confirm their attendance with the facilitators Willie Budge or Cat MacGregor by phoning SAC Thurso on 01847 892602 or emailing fbsthurso@sac.co.uk.

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