Posted: August 19, 2019

Next Nithsdale Monitor Farm Meeting a Learning Safari to Selkirk

The next Nithsdale Monitor Farm meeting on Wednesday 21 August will be a learning journey to Selkirk to visit Oakwood Mill farm and Bowhill Estate with both farms to highlight how collaboration has benefitted their businesses.

The first stop will be to see Giles Henry, of Oakwood Mill farm, where Mr Henry currently runs 72 spring-calving Luing cows, 50 yearling calves and 60 two-year-old steers, 17 of which Giles finishes for another farmer over 110-hectares.

Mr Henry will explain to attendees the benefits he has found from running a low-cost system that breeds, grows and finishes cattle outside on forage alone, using organically managed clover rich swards in a rotational grazing system.


“Since beginning rotational grazing in 2010, we’ve increased grass production by 30 per cent and increased the kg of beef produced per hectare by 25 per cent.

“This is the first year we’ve calved in fields, rather than on the hill. That involved us stocking paddocks with 18 to 20 cows straight into rotation, being moved on every third day.

“The main advantage from breeding, growing and finishing cattle outside has been the huge financial benefits from not having to house stock and buy in concentrate feed which has allowed us to invest the money saved on upgrading fencing and water troughs,” said Mr Henry.

The second stop on journey will be to Bowhill Estate, a 6,555 hectare mixed hill/upland farming enterprise where farm manager Sion Williams,  and his team  run the 530 herd premium Aberdeen Angus / Shorthorn X cows and 8100 hill/upland flock – a mixture of Blackface, South Country Cheviot, Aberfield X, Aberdales X,  Pure Abermax and Primera.

Mr Williams will give attendees a tour of Bowhill Estate including the livestock housing and water system and explain their use of anaerobic digestate as an alternative to bagged fertiliser.

“We introduced anaerobic digestion to Bowhill in 2016 as a way to reduce costs. We put biodegradable materials such as poultry manure, cattle slurry and crops in a controlled environment where in the absence of oxygen, microbes break down the materials and produce digestate which is used a fertiliser and biogas which is used to generate renewable heat and energy,” said Mr Williams.

Mr Williams will also talk about sheep genetics and his involvement with the RamCompare project has helped him to make breeding decisions for his sheep flocks.

The meeting in Selkirk on Wednesday 21 August will begin at 10:30am at Oakwood Mill farm, with an aim to finish by 4:30pm at Bowhill Estate.

The Nithsdale monitor farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The aim of the programme, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

To book your place please contact facilitator Judith Hutchison on 07718 919055 or email


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