Focus on new technology at monitor farm

Jason and Victoria Ballantyne

Farmers and crofters are being invited to attend the next meeting of the Sutherland monitor farm, which will focus on developing a sustainable business.

Innovations specialist Stephen Burns, of the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation (Agri-EPI) Centre, will be the main speaker at the meeting which will be held at Brora Golf Club on Tuesday.

The Agri-EPI Centre has been established to drive growth and support innovative ideas to help farmers and business owners become more profitable and sustainable.

It has over 140 members and brings together leading academic institutions with industry partners to design and develop research and innovations that will support growth in the food and farming sectors.

Jason Ballantyne, of Clynelish Farm, is looking forward to hearing how new technology can be adopted on the monitor farm to help farmers and crofters in Sutherland.

“As farmers we are constantly trying to find ways to increase our businesses’ efficiency and profitability. I think that initiatives like the Agri-EPI centre are intriguing as they can support the development of new ideas, which will hopefully help livestock enterprises become more sustainable in this challenging time,” said Mr Ballantyne.

Also at the meeting, Mr Ballantyne and his wife, Victoria, will give a summary of how their first year as the Sutherland monitor farm host has been – what changes they have made, and the results of those changes. The group will then take a look at the Clynelish costings, scenarios and ideas for 2018.

Clynelish 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 which is free to attend and open to all, will begin at 11am, with coffee/registration from 10.30am. To book attendance contact Willie Budge or Cat MacGregor, the project facilitators, at SAC Consulting Thurso.

A trainee auctioneer has been appointed by Lawrie and Symington for its mart at Forfar.

Originally from Falkirk, Gregor Hamilton, 24, joins the company from his role as a yardsman at United Auctions. A welcome addition to the mart, which typically sells around 7,000 head of cattle and 55,000 sheep each year, Mr Hamilton will be supporting manager and lead auctioneer Daniel Johnston in his day-to-day duties as he trains to become a fully qualified FIA auctioneer, which usually takes from three to four years.

Mr Johnston said: “It’s great to have Gregor on-board. He has shown a great deal of enthusiasm for the industry, and his background and practical work experience have equipped him well for a future in livestock auctioneering. We are confident that we have made a good decision and I am looking forward to both working alongside and mentoring him.”

Mr Hamilton is a native to the agriculture sector having grown up and worked on a cattle farm from a young age. He attended Forth Valley College in Falkirk before moving into agriculture vocationally in his role as a yardman for UA where he gained valuable farming and auctioneering work experience.

Combined with a family background in farming, his work experience gave him an insight into the industry which honed his interest in agriculture. He said: “I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to train as an auctioneer with Lawrie and Symington as I have always been passionate about farming and the agricultural way of life.

“I already have a good amount of experience in areas such as maintenance, drawing cattle into lots, handling livestock and managing pens and look forward to developing new skills, as well as expanding my knowledge in the months and years ahead.

“I am a big believer in the idea that you get out what you put in, and I intend to put everything I can into this role. It is an exciting time to be working in agriculture and am thrilled Lawrie and Symington has given me the chance to be part of it.”