Selecting the right breeding replacements for suckler herds and choosing the correct feed to maximise growth rates of finishing cattle.
These are two of the key subjects being discussed at the next Borders Monitor farm meeting on Wednesday, March 7 at the Auld Cross Keys Inn at Denholm.
As well as 1,000 Lleyn sheep, Robert and Lesley Mitchell and their son Stuart run 140 suckler cows - a combination of Beef Shorthorn and Aberdeen-Angus crosses - on their two neighbouring farms, Whitriggs and Denholm Hill.
The Mitchells currently have a group of 60 young heifers and are looking to select 30 of them to join the main herd as replacements, with the others being sold on as breeding stock.
“Selecting replacement heifers is one of the most important decisions we will make, as their performance, and the performance of the calves they produce will have a major influence on the profitability of the herd in the future,” said Robert Mitchell.
To help advise them, and other farmers, about what to look for when choosing breeding replacements, independent beef specialist Basil Lowman will highlight the importance of selecting and managing heifers in order to maximise herd fertility and performance. He will then lead an interactive session where the group will help choose potential breeding replacements for Whitriggs.
Cattle finishing is another subject which has a major influence on herd profitability and Colin MacPhail, one of the project faciliators, will lead a discussion on the costs associated with intensive finishing.
The Mitchells are keen to see if intensive finishing could be a viable option for them.
“As we sold our steers in September as stores,we have had less mouths on the farm over winter and have surplus stocks of fodder and cereals as a result. We are therefore keen to see what growth rates we would need to achieve in our 2017 calf crop with the feed we have in order to make intensive finishing profitable for us,” said Mr Mitchell.
Following lunch, the Mitchells will give an update on what has been happening on their farm since their last meeting in January and will discuss their preparations for this year’s lambing and calving.
The financial performance and key performance indicators (KPIs) of Whitriggs Farm will also be analysed at this meeting. Using both industry standard figures and benchmarked performance data from the associated monitor farm business group, the farmers attending will be able to see which area of the family’s business needs attention going forward.
Whitriggs farm is one of nine monitor farms established in Scotland as part of a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds with funding from the Scottish Government. The aim of the monitor farm programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.
The meeting on March 7 will be held at the Auld Cross Keys Hotel at Denholm. The meeting is due to begin at 10.30am and is expected to end at 2.30pm. Lunch will be provided. All are welcome and the event is free.
For catering purposes, those interested in coming along on March 7 should confirm attendance with Stephen Young, one of the project facilitators, on 07502 339613 or email email@example.com.
For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk