Inverness-based SAC Consultant Derek Hanton and Iona Cameron from SAC’s Thurso Farm Business Services have been appointed facilitators for Scotland’s latest monitor farm outside Thurso.
The new addition is a double first for the monitor farm programme, which is supported by Quality Meat Scotland and the Scottish Government. The Caithness and Sutherland farm is the first in the area and the first to be backed by additional sponsorship from local businesses.
Westfield Farm, Thurso run by John MacKenzie and step-son, Gary Elder, was selected from a short list of three. It will be in the spotlight for the next three years. The farm, which has been in the MacKenzie family for more than 70 years is 223ha, comprising 23ha cereals, 109ha temporary grass, 60ha permanent grass and 31ha of rough grazing. A further 410ha is rented on a seasonal basis.
The unit currently runs 280 suckler cows with a further 40 in-calf heifers. It also has a flock of 460 North Country Cheviot hill ewes with the lambs sold both store and finished. Spring barley is grown for use as on-farm feed.
In 2009 the farm was awarded a Rural Development Contract for an environmental scheme covering the majority of the unit and the farm has two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The family was also successful with an application for funding under the Rural Development Scheme for an innovative slurry system, comprising an underground network of pipes delivering the slurry directly to the fields required. A new slatted system and above ground slurry storage facility will also be constructed this summer.
Derek Hanton and Iona Cameron will begin the project with a whole-farm review and benchmarking process. They hope to start meetings on the farm in early spring. The strength of the monitor farm programme lies in the involvement of local farmers in exchanging ideas and trying out different practices based on discussion and mutual support.
Commenting on the involvement of local businesses in the venture, Peter Beattie, QMS Technical Projects Manager, said, “The sponsorship offered by local businesses is extremely valuable and takes the monitor farm programme to a new level. It demonstrates local commitment to the project and backing from a wider cross-section of the agricultural community.”
Derek Hanton of SAC also welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the first monitor farm in Caithness and Sutherland. “This is an important livestock area,” he said. “We are looking forward to bringing producers in the are together to find ways to enhance their businesses.”
The local businesses and QMS are contributing almost £24,000 over the three years of the monitor farm project with a further £60,000 funding coming from the Scottish Government.
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