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Low costs, high hopes at new Deeside Monitor Farm

11/01/2023
Duncan Morrison discusses his outwintering bale grazing at Meikle Maldron

MAINTAINING low fertiliser costs on a fully outwintered system, with minimal winter use of machinery and good cattle handling facilities impressed more than 60 visitors to Duncan and Claire Morrison’s Deeside farm for their first Monitor Farm meeting. Discussions for improvements included greater use of cattle EID to drive decisions and a fuller understanding of soil health to increase grass production.

Farmers, advisers and industry reps were introduced to the new Deeside Monitor Farm, at Meikle Maldron farm, Torphins, near Banchory in early December. It is hosted by Duncan and Claire and supported by QMS and AHDB, funded by Scottish Government. The farm, their other holdings and the Morrison’s forward thinking and entrepreneurship will be a feature of many meetings over the next four years of the Monitor Farm programme.

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They moved to Meikle Maldron in 2016 and farm 558ac with 220 sucklers, comprising 120 commercial and pedigree Aberdeen Angus cows and a leased herd of 100 Stabiliser cows. Most Stabiliser bull calves are finished, breeding heifers are sold at 12-14 months, the rest sold as stores. They grow 37ac of arable silage and 20ac of kale. 

The theme on the day was ‘First Impressions,’ where visitors were shown the farm’s bulls, and the breeding Aberdeen Angus, pure Stabilisers and cross cows all wintered outside on baled silage. Claire discussed the cattle handling system and the Morrison’s approach to cattle health and welfare.

Visitors highlighted more than fifty points of positive practice at Meikle Maldron including good cattle health, low-cost production, outwintering ease, handling and forage management. Real-life experience and enthusiasm for livestock production encouraged attendees to suggest to Duncan and Claire that improvements could be made in data collection to drive the farm business forwards. Bull fertility, improvements to soil structure, lime levels and the value of forage crops were discussed too. 

The Monitor Farm programme is supporting a detailed soil analysis of several fields this spring, to provide the data and information needed to assess the farm’s soil health and allow targeted inputs for better grass and forage performance. 

Duncan said: “I was delighted by the support from everyone who turned up. It’s great that others see the good work we’re doing while suggesting areas where we can improve.”

Peter Beattie, the Regional Adviser for three North of Scotland Monitor Farms said: “Attendees were rightly impressed with the simple and effective set-up on the Morrison’s farm. There’s room for improvement too, for example hi-tech data use and basic soil management, which will continue to improve margins for Duncan and Claire.”

More than 20 attendees volunteered to become Management Group members, to work with the Morrisons to discuss improvements, trial ideas and benchmark data. The Group will help plan further meetings this year for the benefit of the Monitor Farm and relevant to Deeside farming businesses.

For more details on future meetings, see www.monitorfarms.co.uk or contact Peter Beattie, Regional Adviser at pbeattie@qmscotland.co.uk, or email monitorfarm@qmscotland.co.uk

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