Focus farms unveiled at Farm Profit Programme launch
Six diverse farms in the north and north east of Scotland have been announced as the focus at a Farm Profit Programme update evening at Thainstone this week.
The ANM Group/Farmers Journal Farm Profit Programme: Making Livestock Pay - officially launched in May 2016 and supported by Scottish Government - aims to improve the technical performance and profitability of livestock farmers in the region.
At the unveiling on Thursday 16 February, six participating focus farms were introduced and an overview of each of the farm businesses was delivered highlighting some of the key areas they will concentrate on over the course of the three-year programme.
John Gregor, Executive Director of ANM Group, said: “As one of Scotland’s largest farmer-owned co-operatives, we are proud of our strong history of supporting our members and the agricultural industry for more than a century. We are delighted with the interest received from everyone with the final list of focus farms selected within our Group’s trading area.
“So much progress has already been made by our dedicated advisors and we look forward to working with the focus farmers to improve profitability and sustainability, whilst safeguarding the future of this industry.”
Justin McCarthy, CEO Agricultural Trust and editor Irish Farmers Journal “On behalf of the Farmers Journal, I am delighted that we are partnering with ANM Group to deliver the Farm Profit Programme. Over the next three years, the programme will challenge our six focus farms to rethink their farming systems and focus on improving the level of technical efficiency around the basis of livestock production. Through the programme we hope to offer a blueprint for profitable livestock production that is transferable to other farms.”
First to be revealed was Mark and Shona Mackay who farm 368 hectares (ha) at Greenvale, near Thurso in Caithness. They run a 160 cow suckler herd that calves in both the spring and the summer. Calves are sired predominantly by Charolais bulls, with Simmental and Aberdeen Angus used to breed replacements. All calves are sold at around a year old.
Next was Andrew and Debbie Duffus, and their sons Ben, Sam and Max who farm at Mains of Auchriachan, just outside Tomintoul. They run a hill farm rented from the Crown Estate and extends to 1,540 ha. The herd is made up of 95 Simmental cross cows split 50:50 between spring and autumn calving. Cows are mated to Charolais/Simmental and Limousin sires. The stratified ewe flock sees 400 hill Blackfaces producing mules for the 230 ewe in-bye flock.
The third focus farm was the Duguid Family, Arthur and Muriel whom together with their son Scott and daughters Gemma and Amy farm 164 ha at Mains of Cranna near Aberchirder, Huntly – this mixed beef and sheep unit runs 150 cows split between spring and autumn calving and 240 Scotch and Cheviot mule ewes.
Next up was Andrew Biffen and his partner Fiona who farm with Andrew’s son Matthew and his fiancé Lesley at Mains of Arnage near Ellon. Their farm extends to 227 ha with 112 ha in grassland. Their herd is comprised of 130 Simmental and Limousin cross cows with offspring sold at between 12 and 15 months old. They also run 300 half-bred and Suffolk cross ewes.
Charles and Alison Webster farm at Ardhuncart Farm near Kildrummy, Alford. The 250 ha farm is part of the Ardhuncart Estate. They run a spring calving herd of 85 Simmental cross cows. Heifers are purchased and run along with any homebred ones suitable for breeding and mated to a Limousin bull to be sold with calves at foot. They also have a flock of 190 Cheviot Mule and Texel-cross ewes with lambs sold prime through the mart at Thainstone.
Finally, Andrew and Kathryn Gammie farm in partnership with Andrew’s father Jim at Drumforber just outside Laurencekirk. The 131 ha farm is a mixed arable and grassland unit and carries a herd of 80 suckler cows. Cows are mainly Limousin crosses with some Aberdeen Angus crosses and a nucleus herd of pedigree Limousin cows.
Over the course of the programme, the six focus farms aim to increase the output on their farms by improving technical efficiency through measures such as growing and utilising more grass, increasing daily live weight gains at grass, tightening calving periods, increasing the number of lambs/ewes sold and correcting the soil fertility.
The launch event also revealed details of the eight focus groups that are to be established across the region. These will consist of 10–12 like-minded farmers focusing on their own businesses, discussing challenges, sharing experiences and implementing advice relevant to them. For those interested in being involved in a group, there is still time to do so by emailing name and farm details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weekly updates on the focus farms, details of the changes made and challenges faced will be available online at www.anmgroup.co.uk and www.farmersjournal.co.uk.