Precise Colin up for award

Colin McGregor of Coldstream Mains Farm who is one of the finalists in the Farmers Weekly arable farmer of the year.
Colin McGregor of Coldstream Mains Farm who is one of the finalists in the Farmers Weekly arable farmer of the year.
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COLDSTREAM farmer Colin McGregor is in the running for a major accolade.

The successful arable man finds out today (Thursday) if he has won the industry magazine Farmers Weekly’s arable farmer of the year title.

One of three finalists in the arable section, Mr McGregor said he is delighted to be in contention.

It’s the first time his 2,831 ha (6,996 acres) operation has been in the nationwide competition – and it was one of the business’s farming clients who nominated him.

Mr McGregor of Coldstream Mains puts the success of the business he runs with wife Jill down to getting the details right and having good people involved.

“Aside from attention to detail, the secret of our success is our management team of Jill and David Fuller and all our employees who are a great, dedicated team,” he said.

The success formula in more detail is the three P’s, says Mr McGregor – people, precision farming techniques and plant, using up-to-date machinery.

He continued: “Our aim is to build a profitable and sustainable business where best practice is standard. A key factor in the business’ growth has been an understanding of costs.

“Attention to detail is paramount and it was vital as the business grew that we should take advantage of the economies of scale available.”

A qualified farm secretary, Jill runs the farm office while agronomist David Fuller is the technical manager, concentrating on crop production. The business has nine full-time employees.

Mr McGregor took over the family farm in 1989 when he was 21 and focused on cereal, legumes and potatoes. Now he crops eight farms – 128ha owned, 300ha rented and the rest on contract agreements – growing wheat, oilseed rape, spring beans, vining peas, barley and potatoes in collaboration with Greenvale AP.

He was an early adopter of precision farming – using electronics to assess farms more accurately – first mapping yields of fields in 1996. The land he crops is soil-mapped by GPS which means he can apply variable amounts of phosphate, potash, lime and nitrogen, targeting the minerals to where they are needed.

The business is putting together soil conductivity maps just now and Mr McGregor hopes to take the same variable approach to seed-sowing this autumn.

Sprayers are GPS-controlled and the business has a system which stops overlaps with cultivations and gives machine operations in the field accuracy to within 20mm.

Mr McGregor was also an early pioneer of a technique allowing him to drill seeds and put fertiliser in the ground at the same time which allows him to plant oilseed rape after a wheat crop.

He said: “That was unthinkable in Scotland a few years ago.”

In 2006 the McGregors started Borderfields, which makes the cold-pressed oilseed rape oil Oleifera. They sold their controlling interest last year, though they continue to supply the company.

The business is a member of the charity LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming).

All the farms are involved in environmental schemes and the McGregors leave field wildlife margins.

“The environment is extremely important to us – our generation is only passing through,” said Mr McGregor.

So far, the judges have liked the McGregors’ “high level of excellence”, their early adoption of new technology, the business’ crop consistency over a large area, and they noted “impressive” spring bean crops. They also praised Mr McGregor for taking pride in his work and managing the contract farms as if they were his own.

The overall winner will be announced at an awards dinner in London this evening.