Award-winning Borders farmers Robert and Jac Neill of Upper Nisbet Farm near Jedburgh welcomed a special visitor last week.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Richard Lochhead paid a visit to their farm to thank them for their participation on the Scottish Government’s Farming for a Better Climate (FFBC) initiative, which saw the Neills reduce their business’ carbon footprint by an impressive 19% and achieve savings of just over £19,000 between 2011 and 2014.
Robert and Jac volunteered for three years as a Climate Change Focus Farm in FFBC, which is run on behalf of the Scottish Government by SAC Consulting.
Although better known for their award winning herd of 300 Limousin cross cows, as a focus farm the Neills concentrated on the arable side of their business.
Using SAC Consulting’s own farm efficiency measurement tool ‘AgRE Calc©’, Robert and Jac investigated a number of areas and made practical changes to routine activities which benefited both the business and its carbon footprint. Data from 2014 was compared with the baseline year of 2011.
Key findings include:
A good harvest in 2014 meant an increase in arable crop sales, improving farm yields when compared to inputs.
Knowing the value of FYM on the farm, plus GPS soil analyses of Phosphorous and Potassium levels and pH, meant improved targeting of nutrients to where it was needed on the farm, saving on the fertiliser bill.
Better management of the farm fleet meant fuel use decreased.
Careful monitoring of the weights of finishing livestock enables cattle to be sold when they reach their optimum performance, thus reducing their contribution to on-farm emissions.
Managing grass as a crop and increasing grass/clover leys in the rotation allowed young cattle to be kept at home rather than away wintered, achieving more output from the home farm.
Through these measures financial savings of just over £19,000 were achieved and the overall farm carbon footprint was reduced by 19% in 2014 compared to baseline year of 2011.
During his visit to Upper Nisbet, the Cabinet Secretary toured the farm to hear more about the successful changes that have been implemented.
Jac Neill said: “Taking part in this study has focused our thinking throughout our business and as well as finding ways to reduce our footprint we have been able to make cost savings.
“Farmers must be prepared to analyse their business and often all it takes is for small changes to be made to current working practices to improve efficiency and increase profits. We would encourage any farmers who get the opportunity to take part in a study such as this to grasp that opportunity.”
The Neills involvement with Farming for Better Climate has ended but others around Scotland are participating. For more information, visit www.farmingforabetterclimate.org or follow the project on Twitter @sacfarm4climate or Facebook.