Technograzing Lands in the Lothians

Peter Eccles from Saughland Farm

Technograzing will the focus of a livestock-centred meeting of the Lothians monitor farm on Tuesday 21 May.

The concept of technograzing was developed by farmer Harry Wier in New Zealand more than 35 years ago. Similar to paddock grazing the system allows large numbers of livestock to be moved regularly with minimal labour. Animals are moved two or three times a week, into ‘lanes’ which are divided using temporary electric fencing.

Cumbrian farmer Thomas Stobart will discuss how he and his brother introduced technograzing onto 12.5 hectares of their farm, where it is grazed by 100 Wagyu heifers and steers.

Lothians monitor farmer Peter Eccles explained: “We are really keen to utilise grass as effectively as possible so we want to find out more about the technograzing system to see if it can help us better manage our summer surplus, which will in turn will help ensure we have good forage stocks going into the winter. Our current system is working well but we know we can always improve.”

The meeting will also cover Smartgrass, the away wintering of cattle, Saughland’s lambing and calving performance, Agri-Environment Schemes and the farm’s fodder beet trial.

Inspired by former monitor farmer, John Scott, who had established a fodder beet crop on Fearn farm in Tain, Pete grew 6.5 ha of fodder beet at Saughland last year and has increased this to 10.5 ha this year.

At the meeting next week Pete will discuss the cost benefit of the crop, which despite being expensive to establish, is considerable.

If he had fed homegrown silage in place of fodder beet on the same area of land, Peter calculated that, on a dry mater basis, he would have to needed to produce approximately 71 bales per hectare of 35 per cent DM silage, something that would be challenging for any farm to produce.

This year has seen fantastic lambing performance at Saughland, with early grass growth contributing to good ewe condition and improved lamb survival rates. Calving has been disappointing when compared to an excellent year last year where 70 calves were reared from 68 cows, however Pete is comfortable with both the sheep and cattle results, which he will share at the event.

The group will also discuss Agri-Environment Schemes and the challenges and opportunities they pose. Peter has been offered funding to install new hedges and fencing on farm with the aim of improving wildlife habitats and increasing biodiversity. He also hopes improved shelter belts will enhance animal welfare at Saughland. However, setting aside land for this purpose will reduce output and Peter is keen to get the balance right.

“It’s all about doing the right thing for the environment,” he said, “which is something we really are focused but our primary objective is to produce food to the highest possible standards and make a profit, so I want to discuss how we can use this scheme to achieve this.”

The Lothians Monitor farm – a partnership between neighbouring farms Saughland and Prestonhall – is one of nine new 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 21 May will begin at Saughland Farm, Pathhead, Midlothian, EH37 5XP, all are welcome, and the event is free. Tea and coffee will be available from 10am and lunch will be provided, however for catering purposes those interested in coming along on 21 May should confirm attendance with Colin MacPhail on 07747 046461 or at colin@macphailconsulting.co.uk. The meeting is expected to finish by 3pm.

Lothians monitor farm is also holding an arable-focused meeting on 23 May which will focus on soils, for more details please contact Colin, or click here