The Monitor Farms Programme is a Scotland-wide network of livestock, pig, dairy and arable farms, led by farmers, for farmers, to help improve productivity and farm business profitability.
Monitor Farms are normal, commercial farms which are typical for their area - this helps other farmers in the group benefit from the learning. The monitor farmer opens up the business to a local group who become involved in the decision making process for the farm. Aided by a facilitator and a community group of farmers, the farmer sets an agenda to improve the profitability, productivity and sustainability of the farm business over the three years of the project. Six meetings are held a year, together with an open day.
The concept, adopted from New Zealand, allows farmers to share experiences, find out how others have tackled problems and adopt best practice. The emphasis is strongly on practical farming and good business decisions rather than theory.
SAOS has facilitated several monitor farms over the last few years.
Aberdeenshire Arable MF
HGCA has recently created a video reviewing the highly successful Aberdeenshire Arable Monitor Farm which has now run its three year term:
The monitor farmers on this project are father and son, George and Andrew Booth, of Savoch Farm, Foveran, near Aberdeen. The Booths farm a total of 345ha (852 ac) across four blocks, mostly owned. There is a range of soils but generally on the heavy side with clay which can be unforgiving. Natural drainage is poor and extra power is needed to make good seedbeds, with some fields power harrowed in front of the one-pass drill. Combinable crops (280ha) include; winter barley, winter oilseed rape, wheat, spring barley, winter and spring oats. All crops are grown for the open market except for a small tonnage saved for stock feed and seed. Operate 24m tramlines and like many growers have invested in precision farming utilising tractor auto-steer, combine yield monitor, vari-rate fertiliser spreading and GPS soil mapping. There is one full-time employee and the business uses an independent agronomist.
The livestock enterprise consists of purchasing 250-300 yearlings (AA X) which are traditionally finished throughout the year to regularly supply the farm shop. In addition to the farm, the Booths run a very successful farm shop, coffee shop and butchery – ‘The Store’. It employs 22 staff, supplying farmers markets, Waitrose stores, local hotels and restaurants and also has an internet/mail order sales side.
Aberdeenshire Arable MF Reports
You can read more by downloading the Aberdeenshire Arable Monitor Farm reports below:
Report Open Evening July 2014 – Project Open Evening
Report meeting May 2014 - Agronomy programme and Future Farm Policy
Report meeting Feb 2014 – Farm Succession Planning & N Response Trial Results
Meeting 16 – Nov 13 - Harvest Feedback and Conclusions on the 2013 Season
Meeting 15 – Open Day - Open Day (project learning)
Meeting 14 – Howe Mearns trip - Summer Trip, Howe of Mearns
Report meeting 13 June 2013 – Future labour/Machinery policy
Report meeting 12 May 2013 – Sprayer Application Technology
Report meeting 11 Feb 2013 - An idiot’s guide to analysing farm accounts
Report meeting 10 – Dec 2012 – Review of Precision Farming
Review and update on precision farming plus SGRPID field mapping inspections.
Report meeting 9 – Oct 2012 – Lessons from the 2012 harvest.
Reporting the MF’s crop performance and gathering growers’ experiences and lessons.
Report meeting 8 – July 2012 – Soils, root development and crop nutrition.
Review of soil management including; crop nutrition, soil structure, nutrient availability, organic matter and use of compost.
Report meeting 7 – June 2012 - Visit to Knockothie Farms, Ellon (950ha)
The aim here is to extend the project by visiting a progressive arable farmer to review their business, taking any learning back to the Monitor Farm.
Report meeting 6 – May 2012 - Review Crop Agronomy
The main focus is to take time to really see the growing crops, discuss the agronomy programme, share experiences and discuss future crop management.
Report meeting 5 – Mar 2012 - Value and benefit of compost
The main objective is to examine compost as a tool for improving soil structure. Also discussed a forward farm budget for the year.
Report meeting 4 – Dec 2011 - Grain drier options
A key decision for the Booths concerns the future grain drying and handling system. This meeting involved a visit to 3 farms to see different drying system first hand.
Report meeting 3 – Nov 2011 - Lessons from 2011 season and biomass drying
The main objective was a group exercise to capture the lessons /experiences from the 2011 season and hear about Robert Ramsay’s biomass crop drier.
Report meeting 2 – July 2011 - Machinery Replacement Policy
The main objective is to consider options for replacing the aging fertiliser spreader. What is the replacement policy, the options, and how do you cost it? Also inspect growing crops and market update.
Report meeting 1 – May 2011 - First meeting
This is the first meeting, so the main objective is to meet Andrew and George Booth, get to know the business, enterprise mix, land capability, mechanisation, etc – understanding their system.
On the Fife Monitor Farm, fourth generation farmer, Danny Milne runs a mixed livestock enterprise at Auchtermuchty in Fife with his wife Alison and his parents. This monitor farm has now reached the end of its run. You can watch the video on the learnings and impact below:
As well as 70 suckler cows and some sheep, the business grows 550 acres of cereals including spring barley, winter wheat, oilseed rape, field beans and oats. For the Monitor Farm project, a partnership between HGCA and Potato Council, the Milnes are joined by neighbour John Weir, who farms 150 acres of potatoes at Lacesston Farm. John is keen to work out how to get the best collaboration between landlord and tenant.
The Aberdeenshire Arable Monitor Farm is a 3-year project (2011-14) funded by HGCA and Scottish Government, with HGCA as project managers. SAOS facilitates the project in partnership with Peter Cook.