Posted: March 14, 2017

Borders Monitor Farm Ready to Embrace Change

Over 80 farmers and others working in the industry gathered on the new Borders Monitor Farm to show their support for the project which aims to assist farmers become more efficient and sustainable.

Whitriggs Farm near Denholm, run by Robert and Lesley Mitchell and their son Stuart, was recently announced as one of nine new monitor farms established in Scotland as part of the joint initiative run by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds, with funding from the Scottish Government.

During a farm tour Robert, Lesley and Stuart gave an overview of their current farm business and outlined their cattle, sheep, grassland and arable management strategies.

The 442-hectare farm runs a suckler herd of 140 Beef Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus cross cows and a flock of 1,000 Lleyn ewes across two units. The farms are mainly semi-permanent and permanent grassland and grow 40 hectares of winter wheat and oats to feed the stock. However, the family is keen to look at the best options to take their business forward.

Robert Mitchell said: “The aim of the business up until now has been to be self-sufficient with a tight control on costs to try and maximise profit and try to achieve a good work-life balance.”

He added: “We are always looking for ideas to make our business more efficient and we are very aware that making little changes can have a big impact.”

The 1,000 ewe flock has been closed since 2004 and is lambed indoors in March. The majority of the ewes go to a Lleyn tup, but 250 are put to either a Suffolk or Hampshire tup as the Mitchells have found that these tups produce lambs that finish slightly quicker. Lambs generally reach their target weight of 42 kilos from August and are marketed through Farmstock Scotland. 

Stuart joined the family partnership in 2016 and is keen to look at how the business can be improved. He said: “One of the first things we would like to do is look at the sheep enterprises and try to increase the number of lambs sold.”

“We would also like to see the cattle becoming more efficient and reviewing when we sell the calves to see if improvements could be made there.”

Jonny Williams, Beef and Lamb Procurement Officer with Farmstock Scotland, gave an overview of current market trends in the red meat sector. The group then split into smaller groups to discuss what aspects of the farm business they felt the Mitchell family could look at over the next three years in order to improve efficiencies and their bottom line.

The Mitchell’s are excited about being monitor farmers and are open to suggestions on how they can make improvements on their farm.

Robert Mitchell commented: “The monitor farm programme gives farmers the opportunity to share their ideas and tell us at Whitriggs how we can improve things and what other farmers would like to see changed on the farm. Hopefully they will adopt some of the new ideas being discussed and see improvements in their own businesses too.”

If you would like more information about the Borders monitor farm please contact Stephen Young, one of the project facilitators on 07502 339613 or email


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