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Stackyard News May 2010

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Farmers Invited to Monitor Farm of the Future

Livestock farmers from across the North East have the opportunity to participate in the start of a cutting edge experiment that will help to transform our view of agriculture in the region. This comes as an invitation to the inaugural Open Evening of the region’s newly announced Monitor Farm - Donkin Rigg near Cambo, Morpeth.

Simon Bainbridge

Simon Bainbridge

During the event, sponsored by Novartis Animal Health on Thursday May 20th, farmers will be given a farm tour, introduced to the Monitor farm concept and shown how the 1600 acre Donkin Rigg farming enterprise, selected as being highly representative of a Northumbrian livestock farm, will be developed as a best practice example for farmers across the North East.

The event will begin at Rothley East Shields before moving onto Donkin Rigg farm and visiting farmers will have chance to view a selection of the farm’s livestock and feed pastures. After the farm tour everyone will be invited to comment on “What does the farmer need to focus on to improve his business?” and “How to maximise Suckler Cow Profits?”

The Monitor Farm is part of a larger overall project to support farming in the region, its partners include EBLEX, XL Vets, NNATA (The North Northumberland Agricultural Training Association) and UTASS (Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services) and English Farming and Food Partnerships (EFFP).

Doug Gray, Regional Manager for EFFP explains the background to the evening: “This is a chance for farmers to have their first look at the Monitor Farm and hear in detail about the areas being studied. It is a real opportunity for them to become involved from the start, help in the decision making process and overall shaping of the project.”

“This model is intended to be used by the agricultural industry as a show case for the future of farming in the North East. Throughout duration of the project we will be encouraging Farmers to participate in discussion forums open days. Already we are delighted that ADAS has chosen the farm as one of only seven in the UK to participate in its Trace Element Project to determine the optimum supplements for aiding beef and cattle production.”

Simon Bainbridge will outline how he currently operates at Donkin Rigg and his plans for the future. The farm is currently in organic conversion. The Steering Group felt that the key issues that need to be looked at are all technical such as increasing efficiency, increasing genetics, improving systems, and that these can be applied equally to organic and non-organic farms. They also hope that conventional farmers can learn from Donkin Rigg’s organic farming practices especially when it comes to areas like reducing costs by decreasing inputs for the and fertilisers usage.

The Monitor Farm concept has already been established in other parts of the country successfully. Livestock farmer and QMS board member Robert Parker, a former Monitor “farmer”, will be on hand to expand on the concept of the monitor farm and the Benefits of Monitor Farms and Maximising Suckler Cow Profitability Using British Native Breeds. In 2004, his 200 hectare beef and sheep unit near Stranraer was chosen as a Monitor Farm and in 2006 he was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship studying beef production in Argentina, Uruguay and Australia. He writes and lectures on his experience, believing that Monitor Farms are of particular benefit to local communities because they are adapted to their specific conditions. He also found that small changes can make a big difference; record keeping and measuring may be basic but play are an important way of seeing how to move forward and improve efficiency.

In the latter half of the evening, farmers will have chance to see demonstrations of Drench and the effective use of Novatis, a 4th generation sheep wormer. They will also be invited to take part in a feedback session and a BBQ at Donkin Rigg.

The Open Evening on Thursday 20th May is open to all Northumberland livestock farmers however pre-registration is required. Places can be reserved by contacting contact Hellen or Sandra on Tel. 0870 609 1840 or The event begins at 5pm at Rothley East Shields Farm, Cambo, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 4LA.

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