Borders Monitor Farm Meeting to Focus on Managing Change

The Mitchells

Preparing and managing change in the lead up to organic conversion at Whitriggs in 2020 will be the focus of the next Borders Monitor Farm meeting on Wednesday 31 July.

Whitriggs is a partnership between Robert and Lesley Mitchell and their son Stuart. The Mitchell’s run a herd of 170 suckler cows at their 442-hectare farm as well as a breeding herd of 300 red deer. Stuart took on the responsibility of the day to day decision making at Whitriggs last year and initiated the conversion to organic earlier this year.

“We put in our application in April with the two-year conversion to officially start in June 2020. It’s a long process to become organic, but we’re preparing for it and working closely with our agronomist and veterinarian to trial some ideas in the run-up year, and to ensure we meet all the requirements to be recognised as organic when the time comes,” said Stuart Mitchell.

A strong line up of speakers, including James Bretherton from Agscope Ltd and agronomist David Cairns, will offer insight into reviewing the barriers of organic conversion as well as tips on soil, grassland and weed management relevant to both conventional and organic farmers alike. It’s a big decision to convert to organic farming and good technical performance and careful planning are fundamental to profitable organic systems.

Cattle nutritionist and soil specialist James Bretherton from Agscope Ltd has been working alongside farmers for over 20 years to and will lead the discussion on improving soil health and the mutual benefits to livestock and profitability.

“It all starts in the soil. I encourage any farmer looking to find out how we can help our soils cope and ensure good grass supply to come along to the meeting,” said Mr Bretherton.

Finally, the Mitchells will give an update on how they have tightened their calving pattern and improved suckler cow management. Colin Penny of Zoetis will be on hand to discuss the practical requirements for successful synchronisation and artificial insemination programmes to improve conception rates.

Whitriggs 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 on Wednesday 31 July will be held at Whitriggs farm, near Denholm, TD9 8QR and will begin with tea and coffee at 3:00pm. The meeting is expected to finish by 7:00pm with a BBQ dinner to follow. All are welcome and the event is free.

To reserve your place (and dinner!) please contact Stephen Young, one of the project facilitators, on 07502 339613 or email stephen.young@saos.coop.