Maximising Autumn Pasture Potential at the Next Sutherland Monitor Farm Meeting

Victoria and Jason Ballantyne, Clynelish

Autumn pasture planning and management will be the focus of the next Sutherland Monitor Farm meeting to be held on Tuesday 27 August.

Independent consultant and self-confessed ‘grass geek’ Michael Blanche will be the key speaker at the event and will address what farmers should consider when managing their autumn pasture.

“At this time of year there is real potential for farmers to profit from strategies to maximise the potential from autumn grass; these include  extending the grazing into the autumn,  ensuring quality pasture for tupping and for growing calves, and setting up grass covers for Spring so they can be used to feed stock in early season.

“Clynelish have effectively created a tool for managing their grass by subdividing 60 hectares into two to three-hectare paddocks which will provide more management control going into autumn. At the meeting we will look at the best way to utilise this ‘tool’ and how this method will grow and utilise more grass with less waste,” said Mr Blanche.

Nina Clancy, Chief Executive of RSABI, will also be at the event to explain the how RSABI supports farmers and crofters, particularly with their well-being.

“Isolation and long-term stress are big problems in rural areas and it’s about learning to recognise when you, your neighbour, or family member, needs a helping hand. One in four of us will face a mental health issue in our lives.

“I’ll be holding a break-out session for those in attendance about how they can identify the tell-tale signs of someone who may be struggling and needs help and support,” said Ms Clancy.

The meeting will start at 11:00am at Clynelish Farm in Brora with host farmers Jason and Victoria Ballantyne to give attendees demonstrations of the technology that is being used in innovative trials as part of the Monitor Farm Scotland programme.

“Earlier this year we applied to the Monitor Farm Innovation Fund for some innovative trials that will help improve the productivity and profitability of our business. These trials involve utilising technology including a Vetmarker and a drone that we are using to trial new approaches to reduce the labour requirement on farm and make our production more efficient.

"We were really keen to test how a drone can be used in a farming context particularly during early lambing. Although the livestock are still adjusting to the use of a drone, we’ve found it a useful tool to see if any sheep are stuck on their back or need extra attention. While we are still finding out how to fully utilise the technology, initial results look promising.

“The Vetmarker trials, in particular, have shown its potential to reduce the time we spend on sheep maintenance. It is only used for a short time each year, but was invaluable over those weeks and identified significant savings, and we’re pleased other members of the community group have also been able benefit from this equipment,” said Victoria Ballantyne.

Finally, the Ballantynes will also update the meeting on their lamb growth rates, lamb sale results and the weaning strategies they introduced this year before kicking off a discussion on farmers’ “Top Weaning Tips”.

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 Clynelish farm on Tuesday 27 August is free to attend and open to all. It will begin at 11am, with coffee and registration from 10.30am. Lunch is included.

For catering purposes, anyone interested in attending the meeting should confirm their attendance with the facilitators Willie Budge or Cat MacGregor by phoning SAC Thurso on 01847 892602 or emailing fbsthurso@sac.co.uk.