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Stackyard News Oct 2010

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Practical EID Application & Winter Feeding

Last week over thirty people attended a Monitor Farm meeting held at Thistley Haugh Farm near Longhorsley. The aim of the event was to look at how winterfeed planning and electronic identification (EID) can improve profitability in farming.

Rhidian Jones from SAC and Simon Bainbridge
of Donkin Rigg Monitor Farm.

Rhidian Jones from SAC  and Simon Bainbridge of Donkin Rigg Monitor Farm

After an update from Simon Bainbridge about the initiatives that have been introduced and the research that has taken place on his Monitor Farm Donkin Rigg near Cambo, Gus and Duncan Nelles gave presentations based on their own personal experiences at Thistley Haugh.

Since 2007 Duncan Nelles has proactively used EID to improve his flock both genetically, and in terms of performance. This was a completely different way of managing his flock as it is based on recording performances and genetics, then feeding accordingly. In introducing EID onto the farm Duncan said that their main objectives were to:-

  • Genetically improve the whole flock
  • Increase lamb Performance
  • Increase the value of the flock through identifiable performance
  • Improve his work life balance.

“We wanted to have the most efficient ewes possible with medium weight sheep requiring minimum intervention. Performance has improved year on year and today Thistley Haugh have a stocking level of 13 ewes per hectare. The Gross Margin is £61.31 per ewe with variable costs of £11.90 per ewe.”

Gus Nelles spoke at length about the effectiveness of the farm’s deferred grazing programme and how this is utilised to eradicate concentrate use and maximise grass quality without high maintenance and manpower costs. In his presentation on winter feed planning for beef cattle, Rhidian Jones from SAC highlighted the need for analysing forage stock and optimising feeding plans.

Commenting afterwards John Macfarlane of Alnorthumbria Veterinary Group and a member of the Monitor Farm Steering Group said: “The genetic progress that Gus and Duncan are producing in their sheep by using EID to gather information helps them make decisions as to which sheep to keep and not to keep. Since starting to use this method of sheep management it has improved their profits and made life much easier.”

The monitor farm project, which is funded by LandSkills North East as part of the Rural Development Programme for England, (RDPE) aims to help farmers develop their businesses and improve the levels of profitability on the host farms and those of the farmers that get involved in the project.

The next Monitor Farm satellite meeting - “How to improve Winter Cattle Housing & Health” will be hosted by Peter Brewis at Easington Grange near Belford on 9th November. This event will provide a tremendous opportunity for farmers to see one of the foremost livestock operations in Northumberland and to hear one of the UK's experts in his field on practical building improvements. Using the buildings on site, Jamie Robertson of Livestock Management Systems Ltd will show how understanding cattle housing can improve the respiratory health of a herd.

Fellow speaker Steve Carragher, Alnorthumbria Vets will then use his locally based knowledge to show how you can improve cattle health during the housing period and how to reduce incidences of pneumonia.

The November 9th event is open to any farmer or business connected with the agricultural industry and is free to attend but pre-booking is essential, to register please contact Hellen or Sandra on 0870 609 1840 / 01904 771213 or

The Monitor Farm is part of a larger overall project to support farming in the region and the 1600 acre Donkin Rigg farming enterprise was selected as is it is highly representative of a Northumbrian livestock farm. During a three year programme the farm is being developed as a best practice example and is intended to be used by the agricultural industry as a show case for the future of farming in the North East.

The Monitor Farm project, funded by LandSkills North East, is run in partnership with EBLEX, XL Vets, NNATA (The North Northumberland Agricultural Training Association) and UTASS (Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services) and English Farming and Food Partnerships (EFFP). LandSkills North East, managed by Lantra on behalf of One North East, is part of the Rural Development Programme for England, (RDPE) funded by the European Fund for Rural Development and Defra.

link A Future in Food, Farming and the Environment
link Government Spending Review Comment from Andrew Jamieson
link No ‘Home Sweet Home’ on the Farm, says CLA

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