Health planning, the marketing of Shetland hill lamb and opportunities for young people working in agriculture are among the topics to be discussed at the next Monitor Farm meeting, due to take place on Saturday 17th March.
Stranraer dairy farmer – and NFU Scotland vice-chairman – Gary Mitchell is due to speak about his participation in a rural leadership programme 10 years ago.
The programme is aimed at businesses with a desire to develop leadership skills and grow their business.
Mr Mitchell is said to be known for his enthusiasm for encouraging young people into farming and identifying training opportunities – which may well benefit young farmers Kirsty and Aimee Budge, who run the Monitor Farm at Bigton.
“It’s been 10 years since I completed the programme and I can honestly say that I grew so much, both personally and professionally, by taking part,” Mr Mitchell said.
“It has changed the way I think, both about farming and politics, and I would thoroughly recommend others to consider the programme.”
Also at the meeting will be isles vet Jim Tait who will talk about the benefits of livestock health planning.
The Budge sisters have learned many advantages to being proactive about health planning, including an improvement in animal welfare, financial gain and increased farm efficiency.
“We know that the farmers and crofters on Shetland who have developed animal health plans are really seeing the benefits of doing it and this is another subject we’ll be looking at, at the meeting,” said Kirsty.
As Bigton Farm is a lowland farm and doesn’t produce purebred Shetland lamb, a Shetland hill lamb sub-group has been established to feed into the monitor farm community group.
An update from the sub-group members will follow their inaugural meeting in February.
The Shetland Lamb Group chairman Eric Graham said: “We hope that the members of the group, which consists of hill farmers and crofters from across Shetland, will work together to identify opportunities to market Shetland hill lambs and ways to finish Shetland lambs on Shetland, before they are shipped to the mainland for processing.”
The sisters are keen to share what has been happening at Bigton Farm since their last meeting in December.
“Lots has been going on at the farm. We conducted a carbon audit recently which has highlighted some changes we could make to improve efficiencies on the farm, and we are also in the process of putting in an environmental grant application to AECS to help fund the management of our heaths and wetlands and other grasslands around the farm” said Kirsty.
“We also bought a new Shorthorn bull that we are keen to show folk, and we also have scanning results for both our cows and our ewes that we plan to share and get feedback on from the group,” added Aimee.
The Shetland Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative 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.