This week we meet more of the finalists for the Scottish Agricultural Awards. The awards celebrate the best of Scottish Agriculture and are being held in Glasgow on October 26.
Scotch Beef Farm of the Year sponsored by ABP
Carriston Farm is a family-run, mixed farm in the heart of Fife, which covers 1,100 acres with a mixture of owned and rented land. They run 200 spring calving cows and 30 autumn calvers predominately Limousin cross cows put to Limousin bulls, with an Angus bull used on the heifers calving down at 2 years old. The farm is also home to a flock of 550 breeding ewes. The family also grows wheat, barley, beans, carrots, parsnips, and swedes.
All male calves are left entire and finished at 12 to 15 months with the majority sold deadweight. A pick of heifers are retained for breeding and the remainder are finished on a homegrown ration. For the past five years, they have been growing fodder beet to outwinter cattle. This has left shed space for finishing additional bought-in store cattle.
David Soudan runs Carskiey Farm located on the southern tip of the Mull of Kintyre, Argyll. The farm extends to 7,500 acres which is made up of 1,500 acres of in-by land and the rest comprises of traditional west coast rough grazing hill. David runs 150 Aberdeen Angus cross autumn calving cows all sired with Angus bulls, all replacement females are home-bred with all males, and excess females are held on the farm and taken through to finish and sent directly from farm to abattoir. They also run Blackface ewes on the hill. Over the last ten years, the farm has invested heavily in ensuring we have the best welfare conditions for our cattle. To do this they have built an entire steading and cattle handling system to comfortably accommodate all cattle through the winter months helping optimise growing rates and further reducing the days spent on the farm.
Firm of T Hodge, Rulesmains Farm
Emma alongside parents Jill and Andrew Hodge runs a mixed arable and pedigree cattle farm at Rulesmains, Duns in the Scottish Borders. The family team runs 110 pedigree Aberdeen-Angus, 30 commercial Angus, and a handful of pedigree Herefords. The Hodges breeds for length, easy natural fleshing, breed character, and critical profitability. The herd regularly sells cattle for five figures at Stirling Bull sales and brings home rosettes from the Scottish show circuit. At the heart of the business is a drive for profit which means they aim to have finishers ready 13 to 14 months old. Recently they have started putting their Hereford bull over their commercial cows to produce Black Baldys for their easy fleshing on grass and quiet nature. On the arable side, the business aims to maximise yield and find the livestock and crop enterprises complement each other well. Andrew took over Rulesmains from his father Thomas, who bought the farm in the 1960s and Emma is taking the business into its third generation.
Sheep Farm of the Year sponsored by Thorntons Law
Farmstock Genetics is owned by Tom and Ian Walling and is located at Over Whitlaw farm near Selkirk in the Scottish borders. The team runs Over Whitlaw which is a 500-acre stock farm and takes in an additional 250 acres of rented summer grazing. The farm carries just over 900 pedigree Lleyn ewes, 250 replacement ewe lambs, and 50 tup lambs which get sold as shearlings the following year. Along with the sheep enterprise we also run around 80 pedigree Salers cows plus followers and 20 Beef Shorthorns.
The philosophy of the farming business is very much low input and high output with ewe lambs sold for breeding off the grass, 80% of the tup lambs finished off the grass, and shearling tups fed only a trickle of feed running up to the sales. The focus is to breed a hardy and efficient ewe. The ewe flock consistently weans just short of their body weight in lambs each year.
Jamie MacPherson runs a cattle and sheep business with over 250 acres of seasonal lets at Merkland Farm. The business has 388 Suffolk mules and 60 suckler cows as well as fattening between 1500 and 2000 store lambs annually. The flock lamb in January with the offspring pushed on so most are away by the Highland Show. The only infrastructure on the farm is a polytunnel for lambing so the cattle are wintered away from the holding. The sucklers are a mix of Limousin, Aberdeen-Angus, and Hereford genetics with calves being sold off their mothers in October. The continental store lambs are bought at Longtown, Castle Douglas, and Ayr and fed on forage rape and grass with all finished by the end of January. The ewes go to Charolais cross Beltex tups with increasing numbers of females bought to build a flock of 500 breeding sheep.
The Bakers’ journey on Windshiel Farm began in 1991, with Ted and Sharon journeying up from Bristol, with their six-month-old son Joe and 200 Dorset sheep. Windshiel is in the Lammermuir hills in Berwickshire, 1000ft above sea level at its peak, and now holds a head of 750 Lleyn and Lleyn cross sheep, 60 Aberdeen Angus cows, a handful of rare breed pigs to complement direct sales at the monthly farmers market in Portobello, and a small flock of pedigree Dorsets. It became organic in 2001 and Joe became a partner in 2013 and has grown the business with a shared farming contract agreement and increased stock numbers. The farm works on a completely outdoor system, utilising rotational and deferred grazing and forage crops to outwinter stock. There is a main focus on grass and soil quality to convert kilos of dry matter to kilos of meat as efficiently as possible, with an increase in herbal leys and sward diversity. The lambs are fattened at home and sold directly with Farmstock, and the cattle are sold at stores at 17 months.
Sustainable Farm of the Year sponsored by Polycrub
Edinvale Farm is a beef and sheep farm based in Dallas, Moray owned and operated by Jock and Fiona Gibson. The team runs an 80-strong Highland and Shorthorn suckler herd and a micro flock of Herdwick sheep. The farm supplies beef and lamb to the family-owned butchers, Macbeths in Forres. All stock is 100% grass and forage fed and they are Pasture for Life Certified.
Since taking on the farm in 2015, the farm has implemented a paddock grazing system, doubled the area of woodlands, and cut out artificial fertiliser use. They are trying to balance having a profitable farm producing high-quality red meat whilst farming with nature.
J Rennie & Sons (Farmers) Ltd, Gask Farm
Gask Farm is a diverse agricultural enterprise, working 1200 arable acres comprising of winter oilseed rape, winter wheat, winter barley, and spring barley. The team also undertakes stubble-to-stubble contract farming and operates a contracting business. They have integrated renewable technologies and agri-technologies to reduce inputs and increase outputs.
In 2002, the motivation to strengthen the arable practice led the team to investigating how to better utilise local waste products and convert them into a fertilizer to meet crop nutrient requirements. To achieve this, the farm commissioned an Anaerobic Digester in 2006 which produces a high-quality fertilizer and meets all the farm’s electric needs and more. This supports their whole-farm approach to sustainability with sustainable land practices and sustainable business strategies.
R Mitchell & Sons, Whitriggs Farm
R Mitchell & Sons is a family business run by Stuart Mitchell, his wife Kate, and parents Robert and Lesley. They run Whitriggs Farm, a 442-ha mixed organic farm near Hawick in the Scottish Borders. The farm has a 140 suckler cow herd, 300 red deer, and 50ha of cereals.
Over the last four years, they have moved to a low-input regenerative system with very low reliance on cost fluctuations. The livestock are pasture-fed only, require very little intervention, and are almost entirely wintered outside. Management changes such as mob grazing are helping improve the soil quality across the farm. The Mitchells are keen ambassadors for knowledge exchange between farmers and regularly host farm meetings. They have developed the farm into a resilient profitable business that is working with nature instead of against it.