Two awards in a week nothing to beef about

Agri Scot 21.11.12 - Ingliston, Edinburgh.  Overal winners of Beef Farmer of the Year & Farmers Weekly contributor.  Jacqueline & Robert Neill , Upper Nesbet, Jedburgh.
Agri Scot 21.11.12 - Ingliston, Edinburgh. Overal winners of Beef Farmer of the Year & Farmers Weekly contributor. Jacqueline & Robert Neill , Upper Nesbet, Jedburgh.

A BORDERS farmer is among 22 in the UK to win a Nuffield scholarship for next year.

Beef producer Robert Neill of Upper Nisbet will use the £10,000 award to study cattle electronic identification (EID).

The former Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year explained: “It’s to educate myself and see how other countries are implementing EID and using it to make their businesses more efficient and to see how it helps at government level concerning traceability and helping the whole country to be more efficient.

“I want to be ahead of the game and I would like to try and help soften the introduction of EID to farmers.”

He’s earmarked three countries to visit so far - Australia who lead the world in cattle EID - Canada and New Zealand.

Australia has had compulsory EID for over a decade: “They are at the forefront; I want to go and see the best to try and learn from them and see how they implemented it, “ he said.

But he is also looking at South America: “The traceability of some of these countries is not very good and in some there is no traceability. Although I want to look at the best, it might be an idea to look at the worst and report back.”

The benefits of EID he says are that it’s more accurate for on-farm recording, it’s faster so labour costs are reduced, and there are no mistakes.

The downsides are tags sometimes won’t read and they are more expensive - about £3.50 compared to £1.50 - than normal tags, “but I think you recoup that little bit extra very quickly,” said Mr Neill.

The scholarship is for farmers and those in related areas to unlock their potential, learn, travel and bring back benefits to advance their industries. Mr Neill has to travel for a minimum of eight weeks and will write his report by July 2014 and present his findings at the organisation’s conference in November 2014.

Meanwhile last Wednesday, he and wife Jacqueline were presented with the first Scotch Beef Farm of the Year Award at Agriscot at Ingliston last Wednesday.

The competition was launched by Agriscot and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) in July and aims to showcase excellence in beef production.

Judges, who included top chef Brian Turner and QMS chairman Jim McLaren, said the Neill’s operation “ticked every box”.

The Neills farm 1,080 acres, putting 650 acres into cereals and running 300 Limousin cross cows and a small herd of 10 pedigree Limousin cows, eight pedigree Limousin bulls and two pedigree British Blue bulls.

Upper Nisbet is also currently a climate change focus farm involved in the Scottish Government’s “Farming for a Better Climate” initiative, run by SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College.

The competition judges were looking for enthusiasm, top technical and financial performance, uptake of new ideas, a high level of health and welfare and a keen eye on the market for the end product.

Mr Neill said this week: “We are most delighted to win this when we were up against such strong fellow competition. It was an honour to be nominated.”

The Neills received a £500 cheque along with a £250 voucher to celebrate their success at a Scotch Beef Club restaurant.