Page 1 Issue seventy-nine • November 2011



4 Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

Sheep Recording

Issue seventy-nine • November 2011 5

QMS Export Strategy

Eilidh MacPherson

farmingscotland EDITOR: Eilidh MacPherson Marbrack Farm, Carsphairn, Castle Douglas, DG7 3TE Tel: 016444 60644 Mobile: 07977897867 PUBLISHER - Eilidh MacPherson

6 8



Monitor Farm



1 0 Dairy Nutrition, Agriscot 15 1 7 Arable 2 0 Potatoes, Cereals 2 2 Education Nuffield Winner

ADVERTISING – Eilidh MacPherson – 016444 60644 Fiona McArthur

– 01583 421397

Alison Martin

– 01292 443097

Cover - Peek-a-boo – one of our ewes Text and photography by Eilidh MacPherson unless otherwise stated

Page 4 & 8 - QMS Page 10 -

De Laval

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Page 14/15 - Agriscot Page 17 -


Page 18-20 - farmers’ own Page 22-

Hereford Cattle Society

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Scottish Government

3 Issue seventy-nine • November 2011



he sheep enterprise at Stracathro and Careston Estates, based near Brechin in Angus, is a no nonsense venture, based on a flock of 1,600 North of England Mules, crossed with Performance Recorded Suffolk tups. Ease of management is a cornerstone of this sheep venture, with virtually all shepherding done by one man; John McLean, shepherd on the estate for over 30 years. The farming of the 2,765 in-hand hectares has been managed by Estate Manager Gordon Cairns since 2006. Arable crops are grown on 850 ha. Rough grazing and hill ground account for 1,640 ha, with the remainder being conservation and woodland. The crops are targeted at specific markets and this market-focussed philosophy extends to the sheep. All lambs are finished as quickly and economically as possible, and sold through the nearby Forfar auction mart, which attracts supermarket and High Street butcher buyers. Lambing is outside and starts the third week of April, to coincide with grass growth. The aim is to get the first finished lambs away before the end of August. From the second half of August, sale lambs are selected weekly. After handling, to ensure they are well-fleshed, each lamb is weighed. “We’re aiming for a liveweight of 40 to 45 kgs, to hit the supermarket spec,” explained Gordon. “Some of our lambs are heavier, but as long as

they are well-fleshed and not over-fat, the High Street butchers are keen on those.” In the mart the lambs are penned according to weight. When Gordon Cairns came to the estate in 2006, the breeding flock numbered 900 and lambed inside in February. The increase to 1,600 ewes and the late April start to outdoor lambing are not the only changes made over the last five years. “I’ve been a fan of Performance Recorded tups for a long time,” he said. “And when I came here, some of the tups had EBVs, others didn’t. Now, if a tup’s not recorded, we won’t even think of buying him! “GPS technology and satellite imagery are used in the arable crops, to ensure the required amounts of inputs are applied at the right time. If we can control costs while ensuring optimum output by carefully measuring our arable inputs, why not do the same with the sheep?” Suffolk shearlings are purchased annually at Kelso Ram Sales. This September, six were bought; four

from Malcolm Stewart of Brotherstone, Melrose and two from JS & JB Mauchlen of Spotts Mains, Kelso. They averaged just under £730, with a top price of £900. Prior to travelling to Kelso, Gordon and shepherd John McLean look through the catalogue for tups with EBV figures in the top five per cent for the traits they need, in particular, scan weight at 21 weeks. “We also look for tups with EBVs which indicate they will sire quick finishing, well-fleshed lambs, which will ideally finish off grass, with good muscle depth and enough back fat to protect them against the weather, but not too much. We want flesh, not fat on the lambs”, explained Gordon. “We’re not keeping the ewe lambs, so maternal traits aren’t important to us. We might consider prolificacy, but it’s not vital – the Mule ewes are prolific in their own right”. For shepherd John McLean, one crucial period is lambing time. “Lambing outside, we need hardy lambs, which are quickly up and

sucking. And these last few years, it’s been really noticeable how keen the lambs are to live; and they do!” he added. “One of the breeders we’ve bought tups off for a couple of years, tells us that he doesn’t consider keeping a tup lamb unless it’s rapidly onto its feet and sucking, un-aided. And this is reflected in the lambs sired by the tups we buy from him.” The buying duo are however keen to emphasise that figures are by no means everything. “Once we’re happy with the EBVs, John and I check out all the working parts,” said Gordon. “The tups must be right in the mouth, have tight skins, good feet, testicles and locomotion. They also need a decent shape, and in particular length. Our Mule ewes are already lengthy and by using a long tup over them, we’re offering lambs with a really long loin to the meat trade buyers. “We also want tups which have been naturally done. We need them to be fit to work hard and get the majority of the ewes in lamb in the first cycle, to help us get the finished lambs away earlier rather than later. “It’s noticeable around the sale ring that more buyers are now looking at the performance records. And sheep with good EBVs are comparatively more expensive, but with lamb prices as they are, it only takes a couple more lambs to cover the extra cost, and the tups we’re buying certainly give us those extra lambs; and more!”

Performance Recorded Tups by Claire Powell




rmaNA new strategy aimed at further developing the market for Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb into the wider European market was announced at the world’s biggest food trade fair recently. In its first major revision since 2006, the new strategy, which has been developed in collaboration with Scottish exporters, outlines a three pronged approach to both supporting established markets and helping Scotland’s products gain a foothold in other areas in both Europe and beyond. Jim McLaren, QMS Chairman said: “The initial four target markets identified by QMS in 2006 have been very successful for the Scottish red meat industry. Awareness of our product in France, Italy, The Netherlands and Belgium amongst wholesalers and retailers is at the point where we can refocus our campaigns from helping develop market opportunities to now helping build consumer demand. “We’ve overcome the initial challenge of establishing a network of retailers throughout the four countries who are selling and promoting Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb, and we can now move to a position similar to established home markets such as London, where we can focus on building a demand from consumers Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

QMS launches new export strategy and the foodservice sector.” In the quarter to September 2010 the industry has exported beef and lamb to the value of £18.4 million, 80% of which was to our current target markets. The market in the four countries is now worth an estimated £44.7 million to the Scottish industry. With this refocusing it gives QMS the opportunity to start work on breaking Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb into new markets, targeting the Nordic nations and Germany specifically. These countries were identified primarily as there is already a small presence of mainly commodity product, with considerable potential to develop added-value markets for our premium Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb brands. The new markets have been chosen because they are countries with relatively high disposable incomes and prosperity compared to other EU nations, they are net importers of beef and lamb and have a population of discerning consumers. Mr McLaren said: “Consumers in the

new markets we’ve identified tend to be well travelled, interested in ethical issues such as the environment and welfare and have a love of traditional foods; exactly the type of consumer to whom Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb appeal. “Taking part in the Bocuse d’Or, which receives a great deal of media interest and television coverage in Scandinavia, was a great launch pad for our brands in those markets. “With the winner coming from Norway in 2009 and Denmark in 2011 it shows that some of the world’s most influential gastronomy is coming from northern Europe and it’s a market where we see the opportunity to grow demand for our premium products.” The strategy recommends a staged approach, initially investigating retail avenues that can be developed and then working to raise awareness of not only Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb, but also the reputation of Scotland as a land of food and drink. Laurent Vernet, Marketing Manager with QMS said: “In moving into these markets we’ll be looking to

collaborate with other Scottish Government agencies as well as continuing to seek European Union development funding to help drive the strategy. “Our research shows that the PGI mark, which both Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb hold, has fairly low levels of recognition in the Nordic nations and Germany, and our plan to help develop a demand for our brand will also highlight the quality of product required to carry the PGI label.” The longer-term part of the strategy is to further develop eastern non-European markets, with a particular focus on the new affluent consumers in Russia and China. Mr Vernet said: “We’ll be investigating opportunities to work with other British organisations to pool our efforts, as breaking into these markets is both logistically and politically difficult. “Russia and China are large and growing markets, which present opportunities to position our premium brands as an aspirational item to increasingly affluent consumers.”

5 Issue seventy-nine • November 2011


RHS Judges 2011



ub-zero conditions last winter caused huge problems for pig farmers due to drinking systems freezing up, particularly in straw-based housing. In addition to leaving pigs without water, this caused extensive damage resulting in Suffolk based Quality Equipment (G E Baker Ltd) receiving a flood of enquiries for new pipework and drinkers. As a result, the company has introduced a new heating system, which re-circulates warmed drinking water to overcome this problem. Water is warmed as it passes through a 3kW or 6kW heating element and is pumped around the system by a single-phase pump capable of servicing, respectively, circuits up to 250m or 400m long. Water can be heated up to 40ºC at the heating source, but the optimum setting depends upon ambient temperature, age of pigs and length of the pipe-run. The system is simple to include in new housing and existing systems can be adapted. Plastic tubing is used for most of the circuit, since plastic retains heat, but metal piping is used where pigs can bite. Non-return valves prevent fresh water from becoming contaminated. “One of the problems with some heating systems is that, while they keep water flowing in the ring-main, the downpipes leading to the drinkers and the drinkers themselves can still become frozen in severe weather,” commented Michael Mattmüller of Quality Equipment. “Our new system circulates water right down to the drinkers and ensures the whole installation remains ice-free.” He points out that, apart from welfare considerations and the cost of repairs, there is a significant economic benefit from the water heating system. “It encourages pigs to drink, even in colder weather. If pigs don’t drink then they don’t eat — and if they don’t eat they don’t grow!” The system thus helps to avoid growth checks during the winter months. Price of the installation – which can be used for all sows, weaners, growers and finishers – depends upon the size and layout of the house in which it is to be fitted.


Views wanted on tree planting in Scotland


and managers, local authorities, the voluntary sector and community groups across Scotland are all being asked their views on how best to take forward woodland expansion in Scotland. The call to gather views comes from Dr Andrew Barbour, the chairman of the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group. This 18-strong group of farmers, foresters, conservation, community and land experts, has been tasked with the job of providing Scottish Ministers with advice on identifying which types of land are best for tree planting. Dr Barbour said: "One clear message from the Group is a desire to gather as many views as possible from a wide range organisations and individuals. "We want to find out what others think are the opportunities for woodland expansion and what might be stopping it. "We need to identify key areas of conflict over land use and importantly why the current regulations and consultation mechanisms do not prevent problems arising. We also

need to hear as many practical and constructive ideas as possible on how we might overcome them. "There are many organisations or groups out there that have first-hand experience of these issues and their views or suggestions would be very welcome." A letter has been sent to interested bodies and individuals for their feedback by the end of December 2011. Others may access the letter on the Commission's Woodland Expansion Advisory Group website pages A series of stakeholder meetings to discuss emerging proposals will be organised around the country in the Spring next year. Anyone interested in giving their views can do so in writing to: Woodland Expansion Advisory Group Secretariat c/o Forestry Commission Scotland Silvan House, 231 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 7AT Or by emailing

he task of placing the main cattle, sheep and horse class winners and champions at next year’s Royal Highland Show will be in the hands of around 100 judges. The show organisers have announced details of the experts who will officiate at the 2012 event – main sponsor The Royal Bank of Scotland – on June 21-24 at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh. The judges, appointed from all over the UK and Ireland with one overseas judge from Australia, will have the task of selecting the best from an anticipated 5000 livestock entries. In the beef cattle section, the overall individual and inter-breed team champions will be chosen by James McMillan, Craigmore, Farnell, Brechin. The native inter-breed team will be in the hands of Iain Campbell, Allerbeck Farm, Eaglesfield, Lockerbie. With the World Charolais Congress being held in the UK next year, the Charolais breed section will have two judges – David Bondfield from Queensland, Australia will select the females with the males in the hands of Basil Bothwell from Killeshandra, Co Cavan. The overall dairy cattle competitions will be judged by Richard Baynes, Marley Cote Walls, Slaley, Hexham. With 24 section champions to choose from, it will be a mammoth task in the overall sheep inter-breed for Robin Thomson, Bogleknowe House, Balmaclellan, Castle Douglas. The inter-breed pairs will also be well subscribed and that competition will be judged by Robin Bell, Charlesfield, Edenside Road, Kelso, who will also supervise the highly popular young handlers class. In the light and heavy horse sections, two of the prestigious trophies, the St John’s Well Trophy and the Sanderson Trophy, will be judged respectively by Mrs Fiona Stewart, Rannoch House, Hill of Tarvit Mains, Cupar, and Robert Noble Snr, Crossview, Crossgates Farm, Stewarton. The Cuddy Supreme In Hand Champion will be chosen by Mrs Mary Reveley, Groundhill Farm, Lingdale, Cleveland, and the Mountain & Moorland overall championship line-up will be judged by Miss Elizabeth Briant, Ivy House Farm, Grittenham, Chippenham, Wilts.




Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

Liver Fluke and how to prevent and control it was the topic for discussion at the Moray and Nairn Monitor Farm Meeting


ollowing confirmation that liver fluke had caused ill-thrift in lambs on Cluny, the Moray and Nairn Monitor Farm near Forres, the recent meeting discussed fluke in sheep and cattle, and methods to control it. Cluny is part of the national programme of Monitor Farms, led by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), and is a 1060 acre unit, farmed by Robbie Newlands, his wife Kirsty and his father, also Robbie. There is a suckler herd of 170 plus cows and a flock of 650 Scotch Mule ewes. All progeny – sheep and cattle – are finished. Mr Newlands told the group, “Lambs which have been treated for fluke have really thrived and look significantly better. Thanks to the fluke, we’re unlikely to get any lambs away until around the end of October. Next year we’ll definitely treat all our lambs in July.” Dr. Philip Skuce, a Senior Research Scientist at the Moredun Research Institute, explained the geographic migration of fluke and its life cycle to the community group, as well as outlining measures farmers can take to control the parasite. Fluke, once regarded as a problem of the wetter and warmer areas in the west, has spread dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years, and is now also found in the east of Scotland. Fluke damages livers, reduces livestock performance, impacts on fertility and is sometimes fatal. Overall, it is estimated to cost the Scottish livestock industry in the region of £50 million per annum. Flukes are parasitic flatworms, which grow to about an inch in length. They infest theDr Skuce reminded the community group of the crucial role of the mud snail as without it the fluke life cycle could


not continue. He recommended grazing livestock on well drained pasture and fencing off wet areas, to help keep livestock from likely mud snail habitats, especially during high risk periods. The same fluke affects sheep and cattle, so mixed grazing should be avoided if possible, and cattle should be included in treatment programmes on such farms. An additional and largely unavoidable complication is that wildlife, e.g. hares, rabbits and deer, also harbour and spread fluke. If the farm is free of fluke, minimise risks of importing it by treating in-coming stock before they join the flock or herd. Dr Skuce emphasised that there are no “blue prints” for fluke control and that farmers need to remain vigilant and tailor control strategies to conditions on their own farms. Things to consider include the farm and neighbouring farm’s history, abattoir returns, which provide liver fluke information, the vet’s local knowledge, climatic factors, plus regular monitoring to establish whether or not stock is affected. Once fluke is suspected, it is important to use the appropriate anthelmintic at the correct treatment intervals. Dr Skuce explained that no single flukicide kills all stages of fluke, and emphasised the importance of establishing the level of challenge and stage of fluke being targeted, ranging from adult flukes in the bile duct, to very young immature flukes in the liver. General guidance for autumn treatment of housed animals is to wait until two weeks after housing, during which time there has been no ingestion of fluke cysts through grazing, then treat with

Triclabendazole, which targets all stages of fluke except early immature. For winter-housed stock, to clear them of mature fluke prior to turn-out, (thereby preventing shedding of eggs onto grass), there is a range of products with active ingredients which target only adult fluke. There are no flukicidal drugs licensed for use in lactating animals, so dairy cows can only be treated in the dry period, just before calving. Because of the complexities of fluke, Dr Skuce recommended that farmers consult their vets to ensure the most effective treatment strategy. Of concern to the livestock industry is the increasing number of reports of lack of efficacy of Triclabendazole (TCBZ), the active ingredient in a number of leading flukicides. With current tests to determine flukicide efficacy not totally reliable, it is impossible to definitely establish whether or not a flukicide treatment has worked. However, a recently developed test, which is currently being trialled by the Moredun, is yielding promising results. The new test detects tiny quantities of fluke secretion in animal faeces, and is simpler and more reliable than traditional fluke egg counting. When used after flukicide

treatment, this new test should provide an accurate and immediate indication as to whether or not there is fluke infection, thereby determining the success of the treatment. The only animals currently on the Moray and Nairn Monitor Farm, which have not been treated for fluke are this year’s calves. The farmer, Robbie Newlands, plans to blood test these calves for fluke antibodies. If the results are positive, the calves will be treated with the appropriate flukicide. Faecal samples will then be taken for the Moredun to trial the new test. The next Moray and Nairn Monitor Farm meeting will be on 7 December 2011.


hile there have been fewer overall cases of liver fluke disease in Scotland’s sheep and cattle so far this year than by the same point in 2010, SAC vets are warning farmers not to become complacent. With several recent outbreaks in sheep, they are warning that any livestock potentially at risk should receive flukicide treatment and vaccination against Black Disease. Ayr-based SAC vet Dr George Mitchell said: “Outbreaks of acute liver fluke in sheep, leading to death, have recently been recorded in Ayrshire. This would indicate local conditions have been right for the development of the parasite within its host, the mud snail Galba truncatula. Therefore it is essential that sheep and cattle perceived to be at risk in these areas are treated. But farmers

across Scotland should remain vigilant. “Any casualty animals should be submitted to SAC Veterinary Centres for post mortem examination to establish a cause of death and to permit continual monitoring of the prevalence of liver fluke disease in cattle and sheep.” Both rainfall and temperature have an effect on liver fluke infection levels. The parasite’s host, the mud snail, lives in wet habitats. Due to this year’s higher average rainfall, such wet habitats have been around for longer and are more widespread due to flooding. While this would suggest that the snail, therefore the parasite, would flourish, temperatures have been on average 1C lower this year than in 2010. Dr Mitchell believes this could be the reason for this year’s drop in

liver fluke cases. He said: “The summer of 2003, following which Scotland’s highest levels of liver fluke disease were recorded, had above average temperatures and below average rainfall suggesting that temperature rather than rainfall may have a greater influence on the level of disease. “The slightly lower temperatures this year may have slowed the liver fluke parasite’s development within the snail. This may reduce the number of immature flukes emerging from snails this autumn and through the winter, which will determine the level of acute and chronic liver fluke disease suffered by our sheep and cattle in the coming months.” Those seeking further information and advice on liver fluke should contact their local SAC Vet Centre.

Liver Fluke Warning 9

DAIRY Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

Ayrshires See us at AgriScot




Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

More beef, less hassle for Lockerbie farmer


orking as a tightly knit family business at Almagill Farm, near Lockerbie, Wuffy McIntyre, wife Dorothy, son and daughter Craig and Lynsey are always seeking to improve farm efficiency and performance. “The livestock is really my responsibility,” says Wuffy. “We finish 3,000 lambs a year and 700 cattle. They are continental cross steers, mainly Limousin, and we also have Holstein Friesian bull beef, which we sell at around 500kg live weight to Scotbeef. “Sixty acres of oats are grown for wholecrop silage and cattle and sheep are fed a TMR diet. It means I’m a busy man.” Daughter Lynsey is the farm administrator whilst son Craig not only runs the arable side of the business – 160 acres of cereals, 260 acres of grazing and 80 acres of silage – but also a separate contracting business, A.Q.F. Contractors. To increase productivity Craig recently invested in a Pottinger Torro Forage Wagon enabling him to harvest three to four times a year and produce higher quantities of high protein silage, the cost-conscious foundation of Almagill cattle’s TMR diet. “I had also been trying to find a better way of introducing quality protein into the cattle diet, “says Mr McIntyre. “We were buying 25 tonne pallet loads of protein, which were lasting too long, up to four months, after which they weren’t at their best. Then I happened to attend a dairy meeting in Carlisle where there was a presentation about Optigen®. I was so impressed by pictures of the cows and the idea of optimizing rumen health that I decided to discuss Optigen with my nutritionist


John Long of L.S. Smellie.” A protein supplement from Alltech, Optigen gives bugs in the rumen a steady supply of easily absorbed nitrogen allowing them to function more efficiently. Working in a similar way to soya or rapeseed, Optigen can replace them in the diet, leaving space for more cost-effective, rumen friendly ingredients such as home grown forage. “A lot of farmers associate Optigen with improved milk yields,” says Mr Long, “but greater rumen efficiency and better digestion is just as vital in beef cattle and will boost daily live weight gains. We decided to replace the extracted rapeseed meal with Optigen – just 55g of Optigen replaces 600g extracted rapeseed – and balance the diet by adding more of the 1700 tonnes of silage grown on farm by Craig. Mr McIntyre was delighted with the results, last year he reduced his days to slaughter by as much as 60 days.” “We’re using Optigen again this year and you can see the difference,” agrees Mr McIntyre, “the cattle are looking extremely well. We are finishing earlier and this year’s Holstein Friesian young bulls are now gaining 1.4 kilos per day.” With continuing feed price volatility, Optigen offers a very convenient, manageable way of providing protein believes Mr McIntyre. “For us, there are all round benefits in using Optigen. It comes in a one tonne pallet and you add small amounts in the TMR, so it’s easy to use. Given that extracted rapeseed costs us up to £180/tonne and we were using up to 60 tonnes a year, Optigen at around 10.5 pence/head saves us a significant amount. And the saving in storage and hassle is almost as good!”

Cutting out palm oil from animal diets


airy farmers are likely to come under increasing pressure to remove palm oil from their cows’ diets following recent retail moves to cut the level of saturated fats in milk,” says Mark Townsend, sales manager of Ufac-UK. Marks and Spencer has made it known that it will be selling milk with six per cent less saturated fat and Denmark has just announced tax penalties on foods with high levels of saturated fats. Because there are considerable environmental and ethical benefits from removing palm oil, in addition to advantages to human health, Mark Townsend believes this heralds the start of a trend which will filter down to both pig and poultry industries. “Retailers will want reduced saturated fats in many food products, including butter, cheese and meat, not just milk.” “In Europe, palm oil replaced the use of tallow in diets following the

BSE crisis, but palm oil is also high in saturated fats,” he said. However, Ufac-UK, a specialist company with particular expertise in handling vegetable oils, has developed products, which are totally palm-oil free and palm kernel free and which can be used at no extra cost. The company claims to be the only UK manufacturer of dietary energy supplements that are totally palm-oil free. These include Dynalac for dairy cows and Megajule for pigs and poultry and can be easily incorporated into farm-mixed diets, compounds and blends. Environmentalists have criticised the fact that rain forests have been cut down to make way for palm oil production. Ufac uses a particular blend of vegetable oils, which overcome these problems. These vegetable oils also have a further environmental benefit of reducing methane production by the animals, said Mr Townsend.

DAIRY Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

Girl Power


wo years down the line from its inception, the BOCM PAULS Agri Business Desk has been a resounding success. Three experienced sales and support executives from an animal feed company took the initiative to approach a competitor (BOCM Pauls) offering their services to set up an office based sales unit, when a change of management was imminent at their place of employment. The trail blazers – Lynn Gardner, Shona Brown and Yvonne Weir, who have worked at the farmer-facing end of the Scottish feed industry for a combined total of 32 years and have a strong technical knowledge and affinity with the livestock industry, have been joined by another four staff at their Motherwell based office.

The girls, who all travel from Shotts, ‘function as a sales support team for both BOCM PAULS representatives and for the merchants, which BOCM PAULS works particularly closely with across the North of England and Scotland. They help sell compound feeds manufactured from BOCM PAULS mill at Penrith; blends out of Turriff Farm Feeds and Kingans Farm Feeds at Brydekirk; and straights, distillery and brewery co-products from across the region. Also, in a significant departure from their previous role when they were engaged purely in a direct sales capacity, the team also support merchant sales.’ This dedicated team have surpassed all BOCM expectations, selling in excess of 30000 tonnes per

annum, mainly to beef and sheep farmers. Women from England and North Wales have been sent up to Motherwell for training and similar offices are now in operation in Bridgewater, Devon and Denbigh, North Wales, (using Welsh speakers). Each sales person has around 600 to 1000 farmers on their ledger and makes between 20 to 25 calls per day. In the summer months the girls update their ledgers and plan their winter work. A ‘Goldmine’ database magically brings up a calendar of who to phone each day. “If you double click on the calendar, the farmer’s file appears.” It lists what livestock they run and their feeding regime. All customers and prospects alike are input in this fashion. To my amazement one of the girls

typed in Richard Nixon (my husband) and Marbrack (our farm) and she said, “Mrs MacPherson answered and has kept her own name,” and then listed what stock and system we operate. This attention to detail is a winning formula. “We need to find out what is happening on the farm and when to target and ask when they start looking at prices,” explained Yvonne. From time to time there will be a special on bucket licks and by using a filter, all farmers who use buckets can be approached for the offer. Similarly several distilleries call up and ask if the girls can sell X tonnes of draff at the drop of a hat. A text message system can be used to shift hundreds of tonnes instantly. So if you are not already on the database, you could be missing out on great deals. BOCM Pauls still have sales reps on the ground, with around 250 customers each. They mainly target the larger dairies and offer a diet ration service. But with the office girls reaching up to 1000 farmers each it is a cost effective exercise.




Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

Dairy Herd Short Leat


he contestants for the prestigious AgriScot Scottish Dairy Farm of the Year title sponsored by World Wide Sires have now been whittled down to four herds. They are ;Malcolm and Janet Booth, Mainhill, Lockerbie – 123 Holsteins Alistair and Sheila Nelson, Redcroft Castle Douglas – 144 Holsteins University of Edinburgh, Langhill, Roslin – 232 Holsteins T M Ralston and Son, East Drumlemble, Campbeltown – 200 Ayrshires Commenting on the rigorous process in getting down to the final four herds, judge Sue Cope described it as, “the most difficult task I have had as the overall standard was so high.” Ms Cope, who has a lifetime in the dairy industry starting with practical on farm experience being brought up on one of the UK’s leading dairy farms and currently working as executive director of the Cattle Information Service, added that the difficulty in picking the top four demonstrated the exceptionally high standard of management and animal welfare in Scottish dairy farming. In reducing the top twenty to the final quartet, she said she had been looking for a range of performance indicators including calving indices below 400 days, above average yields, cell counts below 100 and calving at 24 months with a higher than average percentage of the herd in their 5th and over lactation. She is now embarking on a visit to the four finalists to judge on-farm conditions prior to the final decision being announced at this year’s AgriScot, which is being held at Ingliston on the 16th of November.


Sweet Silage

F AgriScot Business Skills Award 2011


lthough it is only in its second year, the Business Skills Award promoted by the AgriScot organisers is proving a real draw for the next generation coming into agriculture. Chairman of AgriScot and the man who helped set up the competition last year, Andrew Moir believes it provided a platform for young people to demonstrate their practical skills and their business acumen. Competitors for the event, which is being organised by both the SAC and the SAYFC and is open to 18 to 25 year olds, are currently going through the regional heats. The winners of these heats will then go forward to the final, which will be held at AgriScot on the 16th of November with the winner taking the £1,000 first prize put up by Biocell Agri Limited. Scottish representative, Alec Ross, said the company, which supplies specialist feed additives for advanced

ruminant nutrition, wanted to support young people coming into the industry. But those who competed last year said it was not just the cash that was important. “It helps young people make contact with those working in the industry,” was the view of David Hurst one of the 2010 finalists. “One of the judges last year was Ian Hope, of Hayes MacFarlane, and after the competition, he suggested I put my name forward for this farm manager’s job at Balgay, Inchture. “I did and I am now managing 800 acres of arable land and 200 acres of grassland on which we have pedigree Aberdeen Angus, Shorthorn and Luing cattle.” The winner of the competition last year, Ian Christie, also reckons the competition helped him secure the tenancy of the 947ha sheep farm of Ballaterach, Dinnet.

or farmers making silage, 2011 has been a challenging season. Those who started early and made silage in May have ended up with very high D values but with low Dry Matter samples. While according to Andrew Best, of Watsons Seeds, farmers who left it to June have lower D values but higher Dry Matter levels. The big question is – which grouping will provide the winning samples at this year’s AgriScot Silage competition sponsored by Watsons Seeds once more. Entries have already come in from as far south as Lancashire and as far west as Northern Ireland. There are two main classes, Clamp silage and Big bale silage. The initial round of judging is done by analysis of the submitted samples. The second round with the top six samples in each section on show will take place at AgriScot. Once again, Hugh McClymont, farm manager at the Crichton Royal farm, Dumfries, will be carrying out the judging duties. This year, the silage competition at AgriScot has prizes valued at over £2,000. The best three samples in both the Big Bale and Clamp classes will not only walk away with the prize winning tickets but also with vouchers for Watsons Seeds.




Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

Eurozone debt crisis will affect farmers directly ‘If you’re a farmer who is importing or exporting goods overseas it’s crucial that you plan ahead to protect profits’ – that’s the message from leading foreign exchange companies in the face of on-going volatility in the global economy. he last few months have seen the world’s markets experience significant fluctuations, and the currency markets have not escaped this volatility. The Eurozone debt crisis has meant that the relative value of the pound, the euro and all the other major currencies has fluctuated on a daily basis, causing serious problems for anyone trying to plan international payments for their business. Securing a rate in advance may be the only way farmers can plan ahead with any accuracy, as these variations look set to continue. “The well documented crisis in the Eurozone has caused the markets to remain very unstable in the last few months,” confirms Tom Barclay from World First, the UK’s leading foreign exchange broker. “What many people might not recognise is that the problems in the Eurozone have a profound impact on the value of all currency parings. The UK’s economic data is continuing to



churn out shaky figures, and as a result the relative value of the euro vs. the pound is proving particularly difficult to predict at the moment.” The subtext is that this instability in the foreign exchange market is putting increasing pressure on importers and exporters as they try to maintain profits in a tough economic environment. Currency markets are subject to fluctuations on a daily basis and rates can move by as much as 10% in the space of just a few days. For anyone who is involved in sending or receiving goods from overseas, this kind of movement can have serious implications for their business. This is one of the key reasons why more and more businesses are looking to manage their exposure with the help of currency specialists. The problems in the Eurozone, which have hit the headlines this summer are nothing new. Difficulties in the global economy have caused significant variations in the value of international currencies in recent times. For example, the euro has moved by over 13% against the pound throughout the last 12 months, and when it comes to large sums of money that kind of change can make a significant impact on the amounts

you end up dealing with. For anyone involved in making regular international money transfers, staying up to date with the latest information about where the rates are going is very important. Getting access to market analysis and staying on top of the economic news is certainly good idea. However, looking up one of the few companies who are well positioned to help control your exposure is also very advisable. Most people use their banks to try and secure a good spot rate (the rate to move money on the day). But by using FSA authorised foreign exchange specialists, such as World First, you will be able to access better exchange rates. You can also utilise a strategic approach which will mean you can still benefit if exchange rates move in your favour in the lead up to the transaction date. “Employing a planned line of attack to international transaction can make a big difference to your budgets for the year,” continues Tom Barclay. “However, the main thing this offers to importers and exporters is the confidence to plan ahead without any uncertainties.” “Nobody has a crystal ball, and it’s impossible to predict whether the values of these key currencies are

by Tom Barclay World First going to shift one or the other in what has been an incredibly difficult period, but there are ways of controlling your exposure to these factors with the right tactics.” For further information about managing your risk visit Alternatively, to discuss forward contracts further contact Tom Barclay on 0207 801 2362 or email

ARABLE Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

HGCA Monitor Farm Update


berdeenshire Monitor Farmer Andrew Booth experienced a tough harvest with the bad weather leading to high drying costs. He feels reasonably well sold this season for oats and wheat and has put his oilseed rape in pools but is hanging onto his barley to wait and see how markets develop. Crops in the ground are looking well with signs of early establishment but Andrew is keeping a close eye on weeds. Over the winter Andrew will be looking at grain-drying options with the possibility of using renewable heat sources, which will be explored at the next meeting (6 December).


orders Monitor Farmer Alistair Hodge felt harvest went as well as could be expected considering the weather, with a good

quality second wheat crop having been sent for milling. Sowing was later than usual and the new crop is suffering from pressure by slugs. Alistair is concerned he may have sold some of his crop too early in the season to make the most of the markets but only time will tell.


ave you considered your marketing options for the coming season? HGCA is running a series of FREE Grain Market Workshops offering information about key market drivers and the tools available to help create a pricing plan for the season ahead. Regional events are taking place: Duns – 15th November Inverurie – 17th November For more information and to book online visit or call 024 7647 8724.

Drawing Competition Tractor & Pony Jigsaws up for grabs


alling all budding artists under the age of 12. We are looking for drawings or paintings of your favourite tractor or pony to win this John Deere Puzzle-Box or a Pony Puzzle-Box. Each box set contains a lovely set of four completely different jigsaws, each on depicting a tractor at work or ponies at grass. These make great Christmas presents for any youngsters mad keen on tractors or horses or John Deere fans looking to add to their collection. They are available from Amazon for £14.00.


lease post your picture to Art Competition,, Marbrack Farm, Carsphairn, Castle Douglas, DG7 3TE, by the 25th November.

17 Issue seventy-nine • November 2011


Borders – Gareth Baird Scott Country Potatoes


n Gareth Baird’s book, this year has been one of the worst, although not as bad as 2008, the ‘daddy of them all.’ He hopes he never sees another like it. Harvest finished this year on 1st November. Usually it begins in late August, with a target finish date in September, however this year’s been different. There were two main differences, firstly in terms of crop inspections. Gareth withdrew his Malfona and Estima and grew them as ware instead of seed. Secondly crops this year were slow in setting skins, at times causing quite a wait, creating additional expense and drawing harvest out, while all along it got wetter and wetter. Taking six boxes to a trailer instead of eight in some fields to reduce the impact on the ground, further slowed things down. Haulm was cut with a three bed chopper, and sprayed prior to harvest. The front mounted machine makes a tidy job, and having lost the use of sulphuric acid, this has been a good replacement, especially in the wet conditions where avoiding the remaining haulm going up through the harvester was advantageous. However Gareth will continue looking at other methods of haulm destruction. The availability of seasonal labour hasn’t been a problem, with some picked up from the broccoli harvest and they’re now set to work through to April. Meanwhile Gareth is happy with the yield and quality of his crop. He was very taken aback with the trial digs. It was so dry early on, he didn’t think the mother tubers would set well and was amazed at all the daughter tubers and their consistency in size. Having dreaded the wet harvest, there actually wasn’t anything like the level of Soft Rot he expected.


Grading started on the 31st October, and despite having a lot of soil go through, the potatoes were coming out well. In a wet season, a lot of drying capacity makes a huge difference and the Aspire system set up by Frank Pirry has been a blessing, playing an important role in future plant health. The fridges are working very hard due to mild air temperatures and cool down hasn’t been as quick. Current temperatures are 15-16 degrees, with only three cold nights so far, which usually help the cooling process. Gareth plans to look at cost reducing the grading line to make it more efficient this year. His existing seasonal labour is excellent, however they can take a bit of replacing and not everyone is prepared to do this type of work. Another area of considerable cost is electricity. Gareth had started planning the installation of Solar PV panels to generate electricity on five roofs with room for six 50KW panels. However, the government lowered the threshold to 50KW earlier in the year and on the 31st October 2011, halved the rate on the feed-in Tariff, with an early December cut off, leaving him mid stream in the planning for his farm and house and a big question mark hanging over the whole project. Right now grading is going flat out. BP stocks are bought in to plant on virgin land, and planted up for planting stock, so these stocks are graded to assess acreages of each variety and suitable land determined for each, with an agronomist sampling the fields and placing the varieties accordingly. All this will be worked out well before Christmas. It’s also the time when contracts are looked at for next year, with targets for growth and return on variety.

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s a rule on Bindal Farm there are usually three or four days break between finishing harvesting the cereals and starting the potatoes on the second Monday in September. However this year, once harvest started it never seemed to stop, and at one point both harvests were going at once. Alan hasn’t experienced a year like it. In general cereals seemed to be later as Concerto Spring Barley seemed to be late all round, slowing down everybody who was growing it and resulting a bit of a scramble to get tractor drivers at the start of the potato harvest. Brother Callum, a fully trained agricultural engineer, who now works off shore, managed to help for three weeks on and off. The Gordons grow predominantly Optic, with only two fields of Concerto, so although there was something of a silver lining, as Concerto’s yield was higher by _ t per acre and a great advantage. But if they’d had all Concerto, they’d still be harvesting now. Overall the start to the potato harvest was two or three days later than usual. Working with organised labour in situations like this means that a start date has to be made and stuck to. The first 10 days were stop and start between showers, waiting for half an hour at the end of the field, but after that the weather improved. In this area pests aren’t really an issue, but rain made a huge impact throughout Scotland. The Gordons recorded 131mm in August 2011, compared to 67mm in August 2010. September 2011 saw 126mm in August, against 110mm in the same period last year with a whopping 236mm of rain during harvest months this year. A six row chopper came out for the first time and chopped all the haulm green this year. It was a two man job, rotated with doing test digs and begging cups of tea from whoever lived closest to the fields. With sulphuric acid no longer in use,

pulverising and spraying with Spotlight has been the method Alan’s used for the last couple of years. However he believes that pulverising and sulphuric acid is the ultimate desiccant, ‘no revisiting, job done,’ although of course ease of canopy destruction varies with variety and the acid’s very expensive. As luck would have it, not only were tractor drivers hard to come by to begin with, but the main tractor went down with a gear box problem. It was well out of warranty, but despite that Robertsons of Tain did an excellent job in persuading Deutz to pick up 85% of the bill, and possibly more yet – the Gordons are most appreciative. This year there was a horrible problem with weeds. Two and a half fields or 50 acres was affected by annual meadow grass, which went up the harvester like a carpet and seemed to chew through sprockets and chains. It got so bad that a Grimme Hiller had to be hired in from George Henry at Elgin. It broke up the weeds and made harvesting possible. In trying to figure out what had happened, Alan had a minor panic, and was starting to wonder if perhaps he’d forgotten to weed kill certain fields, or if he hadn’t put any weed killer in the tank. However it seems others have experienced the same problem this year and put it down to the dry spring when the weed killer was sprayed, rendering it ineffective. Not only were the weeds hard on the machines, “they were hard on us too. Productivity went down and tempers frayed. It made an end to a bad season. The weeds seemed to crop up towards the end, making the whole job drag on.” Alan describes his seasonal labour as ‘the usual suspects’ because he’s had the same pickers for the last couple of years. The staff has started grading and will now work through the winter. Meanwhile he’s happy with his yield, but believes a lot of people will be in the same boat, driving prices

down. Alan’s had more acreage in production and has had to buy new boxes to store. Quality is fairly good too, with the ground being saturated at lifting, he’s drying stacks of 42 boxes with fans on top of them in Wetherspoon tents. He bought an extra two new tents this year, knowing that the ground was saturated, so that he could dry everything within 24 hours of coming into the shed. However he’s not quite managed to contain it all. ‘The place was absolutely stowed out with tatties everywhere – ‘there were even some in the garage!’ However after some Issue seventy-nine • November 2011

grading and sales, he’s got a bit more room to get sorted out. ‘It felt like the potatoes were closing in.’ Soil sampling has started for 2012, as well as ploughing for next year. Typically – as soon as harvest was over, the weather improved with night time temperatures recorded at 19 degrees in the Moray Firth, just before the start of November! There’s not been any frost yet and nothing lower than 4 degrees. Soil sampling is done by GPS, using two contractors, one for cereals and one for potatoes, with GPS lime application prior to the cereals going in.

Highland – Alan Gordon, Bindal, Tain 19 Issue seventy-nine • November 2011


Angus – Guy Stirling, Gilchorn Farm, Arbroath


his is the fourth year in a row that Guy Stirling has not had to irrigate. It’s also been the wettest of those years and it seems to be getting progressively wetter. It was so wet that the week he went out to harvest the oil seed rape, there was five inches of rain. This also coincided with the burning down of the potato salad crop. In a year when salad crop quality has been poor and tuber numbers low (resulting in larger sizes) due to the cold dry spring, burn down timing was critical. With ground too wet to get machinery on to pulverise the canopy, Guy made an emergency decision and called in George Dalgarno from Little Brechin with his self-propelled sprayers, which could travel on the fields. Bearing in mind that pulverising results in instant kill and cessation of tuber growth, he had to allow 3 days for a dose of Reglone to take effect, effectively starting the process a week earlier. The clock was ticking, with the all important sizing in salad crop threatening to make or break his sales price. Having never had to take such drastic action before, it was a tense time for Guy. Wet conditions could easily stop the chemical scorching off the leaves. However the high concentration (4l/Ha) of Reglone he applied, appeared to work almost instantly, perhaps due to a film of the chemical over the leaves stopping photosynthesis – even though there wasn’t immediate burning, growth stopped. The result of all this was the best sizing Guy has ever seen. On average his salad crop is 66% within the sizing range, with the worst case 50% within range. This year was 86% within range. However, he had difficulty lifting the salads due to skinning. Normal skin set takes 4-5 weeks, but one field in particular this year still wasn’t set 10 weeks after spraying off, increasing the chances of Black Dot and Black Scurf due to the extra time in the ground. One problem was Powdery Scab in a salad ware crop on very light ground. Guy had been concerned at the start of the season about the potential for Common Scab, but he anticipates Powdery Scab instead will


cause a high grade out percentage on that crop. Soft Rot was common in the seed industry this year, however Guy is very pleased with his seed crop, which was very clean. He had no Soft Rot, Black Leg or Powdery Scab so he invisages no grading or storage problems. Yields this year were pretty much the same. Bringing the cereals in this year was massively stressful and harvest finished later than normal. Potatoes started during the first week in September and finished on 20th October, while combining finished in the second week of September. Oil Seed Rape was 20% down, (with none planted for next season) Winter Wheat also 20% down, Spring Barley 10% up, Potatoes the same. The cereal harvest called for a second emergency decision. The Stirlings usually use their own machinery, and for the first time in his career, Guy had to call in contractor George Dalgarno to do his combining using tracked machines. Guy’s happy with his potato quality and is glad he planted late, yielding good tuber numbers. Burning his salad crop down a week earlier resulted in several benefits. It kept the size down, gave optimum timing for burning and lifting, and avoided the potato harvest clashing with his cereals harvest. As Guy works on his plans for next year and beyond, not only is he looking at areas of seed he’s allowed to grow for potatoes, he’s also considering world markets and future trends in farming and world population projections. On the 31st October 2011 world population reached 7 billion. The UN predicts that world population will increase at 200,000 a day reaching 9 billion by 2050, and continuing to increase towards the end of the century, forcing us to focus on food production. With Africa’s fertility rate higher than expected, and China’s demand for meat increasing at 5% per year as its population spends more on food, the demand for grain is increasing. However at the same time, the average age of farmers in the US is now 58 years old, with young people migrating from rural areas to the city

to pursue more lucrative careers. There are more people training to teach PE in the US than those training to be farmers. In our own back yard, SAC has moved its classes onto a campus in the town of Ayr. Here we are, potentially with not enough knowledgeable and experienced food producers to feed an increasing population in the coming century. Farming is going to be the business to be in, and it looks as though grain production is the way to go. So, after this year’s rollercoaster harvest, if Guy could have any piece of machinery in his Christmas stocking, what would it be? One

possibility would be a self-propelled potato harvester, which is lighter on wet ground, but also sill requires accompanying tractors and trailers – not so light. At three times the cost, a self-propelled potato harvester’s production only increases by 30%, so that one’s going to have to wait a bit. The clear winner, bearing in mind the future of cereals, would be from ‘Santa Claas.’ After having to call in tracked combines to get his cereals in, and seeing the immense benefits they give in allowing harvest to go ahead on wet ground, Guy has his eye on his boyhood favourite brand. ‘A nice big top of the range Claas combine on tracks would be good.’ Hint, hint!!

21 Issue seventy-nine • November 2011


Nuffield Scholar Wins Award


obert Parker, a monitor farmer and board member of Quality Meat Scotland from Drumdow Farm near Stranraer, was awarded the inaugural ‘Best Suckler Herd of the Year’ at the recent Hereford Cattle Society Dinner. Judging the Competition was Mr John Giffin, Managing Director of a 3500 acre mixed farming company from Petworth in West Sussex, who travelled the length and breadth of Great Britain to find his Overall Winner. The competition comprised of seven regions across GB, with each


region nominating their ‘local’ herd winner. Each nominated herd was then placed by the vastly experienced Mr Giffin, who has judged at the Rand Show in South Africa, Lusaka Show in Zambia and many major shows across the UK. Robert Parker, a former Nuffield Scholar, crosses Herefords with Angus to produce the ‘Black Baldie.’ The resulting F1 hybrid cross females forming the basis of his impressive 180 cow suckler herd. Robert has split the cows into six groups of 30, out-wintering them on outlying granite and calving them down in a tight

calving pattern in the spring. Heifers calve down at two years of age and genuinely grow on with their calves at foot. The yearling steers are sold at Ayr Market, where Robert has a great following, and heifers are sold for breeding in matching groups with many going to Northern Ireland and buyers throughout the UK. At the heart of his breeding programme are his very evenly matched Hereford sires mostly purchased from his neighbouring farmer Mr John Douglas of Ervie Herefords. There were several strong contenders for second place but Mr

John Giffin said Mr Geoff Holborow from Worcestershire edged it, “by sticking to the Hereford as a brand, producing some excellent finished beef for Dovecote Park, dedicated processors for Waitrose.” John added “due to TB concerns Mr Holborow breeds his own replacements by using a Hereford on a Hereford, resulting in progeny that makes the best use of his permanent park type grazing.” Mr Giffin congratulated the Society on the strength of their entry and concluded by saying “well done Robert, a clear and worthy winner.”

Read it in the Stones


any acres of print have been written about the Scottish Parliament building but now a new publication will illuminate an unusual corner of this much talked about structure. A Scottish Natural Heritage funded leaflet will lift the lid on the stones in the Canongate Wall. Under the façade of the Canongate side of the parliament building is the Canongate Wall. During the construction of the parliament buildings a blast wall was incorporated into the design. The 39 metres long and 6 metres high wall, at its highest point, is set with a selection of Scottish rocks, some of which have Scottish texts carved onto the face. These texts were selected by a panel of MSPs, together with a literature expert, and include suggestions submitted by the Scottish people. In all 24 pieces were chosen for the original design, ranging from Sir Walter Scott to Alasdair Gray. In 2010, to mark the tenth anniversary of the Scottish Parliament in 2009, two more stones were added. In total there are 28 panels of Scottish rocks; from red sandstone from Dumfriesshire, formed when Scotland was a desert, to volcanic grey granites from Aberdeenshire. Mike Browne of Lothian and Borders GeoConservation Group, who co-ordinated the leaflet project said: “The rocks come from all over Scotland and include very ancient rocks, as well as geologically young ones. Also incorporated are ‘Brewery Stones’ recovered from the former brewery building, which was demolished to make way for the new parliament. We hope the leaflet will help people understand a bit more about this important building and the geology of Scotland.” The new leaflet explains where the rocks are from and how, and when, they were formed. It also includes the quotes inscribed on the rocks, who wrote them and where they can be found in print. Iain Rennick, SNH’s area manager, said: “The wall is a fascinating mix of art, history and science. Scotland is the ‘home of geology’ and we have some of the oldest rocks in the world. The modern Scottish Parliament is one of the newer Scottish institutions, so it is fitting that the concrete blast wall is set with Scotland’s ancient rocks – a marriage of old and new, which this new leaflet reveals.” The overall design of the Canongate Wall was by Sora Smithson and the Scottish rocks were carved by Gillian Forbes and Martin Reilly. The free leaflet is available at the parliament and can also be downloaded at It is one of a series of leaflets published by Lothian and Borders GeoConservation covering interesting aspects of local geology.

Issue 79  

Scotland's only monthly agricultural magazine.

Issue 79  

Scotland's only monthly agricultural magazine.