Posted: December 7, 2018

Making Best Use of Feed over Winter

Developing effective winter feed plans to maximise performance will be the focus of the next Sutherland Monitor Farm meeting on Wednesday 12 December.

Nick Canning, Technical lead at Harbro, will be the key speaker at the free meeting, which is being held at Brora Golf Club.

As well as highlighting how to do simple forage calculations, Mr Canning will suggest how livestock farmers can, when forage availability is low, prioritise rations to ensure that the nutritional requirements of all stock on the unit are met over the winter months.

“Knowing the different nutritional requirements of pregnant ewes and cows throughout pregnancy is really important. However, it becomes vital as they approach lambing and calving, to ensure that the requirements are met in order to boost colostrum quality and the growth of the newborn lamb or calf,” said Mr Canning.

Mr Canning is keen to show the benefits of measuring and recording performance against costs. He said: “Farmers can sometimes shy away from using ‘Key Performance Indicators’ or KPI’s in their business but I hope to demonstrate at the meeting that setting targets and KPIs can help improve the efficiency and profitability of a business, whilst being easily measurable”

He added: “Lots of farmers can tell you how many lambs or calves they wean each year, but unless they compare the weaning weight against the costs to produce that animal, the figure is of limited value.

“Measuring kg of liveweight weaned per animal against the cost of production for that animal, and it’s mother, throughout the year will give a real figure that can be compared with other businesses.”

Jason and Vic Ballantyne took over the day-to-day running of the 125-hectare tenanted Clynelish, Sutherland’s monitor farm, in 2012, and currently run 900 breeding ewes and 80 suckler cows. Their May born calves are usually weaned at five and a half months and are sold at nine and a half months at Thainstone. The calves are overwintered inside on silage, draff from the distillery and a little beet pulp and soya which Victoria describes as “a pretty affordable diet.”

The Ballantynes, who have always had a firm grasp of their costs of production, will share their recent weaning and scan results at the meeting. Keen not to get caught out trying to source feed this year, like they and many farmers did last year, they have already started planning for the second half of the winter and next spring.

“We have done some basic feed budgeting based on what we know we have in sheds and in the ground. We also know what stock we expect to carry so this gives us somewhere to start from,” said Jason Ballantyne.

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 the Brora Golf Club on Wednesday 12 December is free to attend and open to all. It will begin at 11am, with coffee and registration from 10.30am. Lunch is included.

Farmers interested in attending the next Sutherland Monitor farm meeting should confirm attendance with the facilitators Willie Budge or Cat MacGregor by phoning SAC Thurso on 01847 892602 or emailing


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