Identifying opportunities to safeguard farm businesses for the future will be the subject of the next Nithsdale Monitor Farm meeting on Thursday 7th February.
At the meeting, which will begin at Clonhie farm, the Nithsdale Monitor Farm, near Penpont, farmers will be asked to give their thoughts on the performance of the monitor farm and suggest ideas to improve and develop the business over the next one or two years. They will be joined by Sion Williams, farm manager at Bowhill Farming Ltd in Selkirk (part of the Buccleuch Estate), who will describe how the various enterprises that make up the business have evolved over the years.
Andrew and Aileen Marchant, who farm at Clonhie, run 900 breeding ewes, a small herd of 20 Luing cattle and have recently invested in 100 deer hinds on their 300-hectare upland farm.
Relatively new entrants to farming, the Marchants took over the tenancy of Clonhie (part of the Buccleuch estate) in 2012 and have built up their business steadily, increasing the number of ewes and most recently diversifying into venison production in a joint venture with Buccleuch estates.
The day will begin at Clonhie with the group visiting some the ewe flock on their winter grazing, the red deer hinds that joined the farm last summer, and the young deer in the recently modified shed before moving to Tynron Village Hall.
Following lunch Andrew Marchant will share with the group the financial and technical performance of Clonhie over the last 12 months and highlight the importance he places on benchmarking the performance of his business against others.
As new entrants, the Marchants weren’t eligible to receive single farm payments for their first five years at Clonhie so admit that they have had to build their business in a different way to most farmers.
“With very little access to finance, we had had to ensure that every business decision we made was backed up by sound financial projections. We didn’t have a safety net: we had to make money or we were gone,” said Mr Marchant.
That discipline has stayed with the couple, who keep a close eye on their business costs and performance data to make sure the farm doesn’t slip backwards.
“There is lots of talk about there being challenging times ahead for farmers in Scotland,” said Mr Marchant. “That’s true, and there are lots of decisions that are out of our hands, like Brexit, the weather and the future of subsidy, but I strongly believe that every farmer has the power to work towards making their own farm as resilient to these external challenges as possible.
“Benchmarking the performance of Clonhie against other farms has really helped Aileen and I identify the strengths and weaknesses of our business and helped identify new opportunities.”
He added: “I think regular reviews of your farm’s performance and the enterprise balance is important too – what might have worked for your farm five years ago, might not work as well now.
“Most livestock farms in Scotland are, like Clonhie, run by a single person and don’t employ extra labour except maybe at lambing or calving. I think technology, joint ventures and collaboration with other businesses can really help farmers improve their farm businesses and help them to work smarter in the future.
“I’m really keen to hear from other farmers how they think we can do things better at Clonhie. Hopefully, all the farmers who come along will benefit from the discussions and take one or two ideas back to their own farms to help their own businesses prosper too,” he concluded.
Also at the meeting on 7th February, Sion Williams will give an overview of the Bowhill Farming operation, which currently runs 6,800 breeding ewes, 500 suckler cows as well as other enterprises including deer, free range hens and an anaerobic digester. He will alsodescribe how and why they have made the choices they have made in growing their enterprises and farm business.
Buccleuch has established several successful joint ventures with some of its tenant farms, which the estate views as a ‘’win win’’ situation, providing a business benefit for both landlord and tenant.
“We see that establishing joint ventures with some of our tenant farms makes good business sense and has benefits to both parties. We are always happy to work with tenants, like the Marchants, who are looking for ways to drive their own businesses forward,” said Mr Williams.
The Nithsdale monitor farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. The aim of the programme, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.
The meeting on Thursday 7th February will begin at Clonhie farm at 10.30am, end at 3.30pm and will include lunch.
To book your place please contact facilitator Judith Hutchison on 07718 919055 or email email@example.com.
For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk.