The hosts of Sutherland’s new monitor farm, Jason Ballantyne and his wife Vic from Clynelish Farm, are busy preparing to welcome farmers and crofters to their first open meeting next week.
Clynelish Farm was recently announced as the Sutherland Monitor Farm and will be holding the first in a series of free meetings on Thursday 9 February. The meeting will start at Brora Scout Hall at 11am and after lunch the group will move to the farm for a tour, with the event finishing by 2.30pm. All are welcome and the event is free.
The Sutherland 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 three-year programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.
Farmers and crofters who attend the meetings at Clynelish will be able to suggest possible changes to the business that may improve productivity and efficiency, and can also play an active role in selecting topics and speakers for future meetings to cover issues which are relevant to the region.
The 125-hectare farm is run by Jason and Vic, in partnership with Jason’s dad Murdo. They also contract farm 48 hectares nearby and rent a further 50 hectares of rough grazing.
The family runs 900 breeding ewes, of which about half are Lairg-type Cheviots and the other half Lleyn cross. They also have 80 suckler cows which are a mostly a mixture of Simmental cross native cows which are all outwintered.
Jason Ballantyne, who admits to being a little “grass obsessed”, has focused considerable attention on improvements to the grass and soil of the farm but feels there is still scope to further improve grass utilisation and increase overall outputs.
As well as being the new monitor farm for Sutherland, Clynelish is also an SRUC climate change focus farm. At the meeting on 9 February, Jason will give an overview of this project and highlight the changes the farm has made over the last three years to improve efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint.
Vic and Jason are excited about being involved in the new monitor farm programme and are looking forward to seeing how their farm, and other farms in Sutherland and the far North, will benefit from the initiative.
“It’s going to be great to have specialists coming to the area and sharing their knowledge and expertise on how to step up efficiency with us and other local farmers,” said Vic Ballantyne.
The first Sutherland Monitor Farm meeting will begin at 11am on Thursday 9 February at Brora Scout Hall (KW9 6PU).
At the event, Jason and Vic Ballanytne will give an overview of the farming system of Clynelish and representatives from QMS and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds will give an overview of the monitor farm programme.
Willie Budge from SAC Consulting, a division of SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College and one of the Sutherland Monitor Farm project facilitators, will detail how local farmers can benefit from being part of the three-year project and from the management and benchmarking groups that will be established.
After lunch, the group will relocate to Clynelish where Jason and Vic will give a brief tour of the farm and the group can look around the buildings and housed cattle. The meeting is due to finish at 2.30pm.
To book your lunch please contact facilitators Cat MacGregor or Willie Budge at SAC Thurso 01847 892602 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.