Farming: Research could lead Scots to top league
A NEW research programme at the Scottish Agricultural College’s (SAC) hill farm in west Perthshire has the potential to propel sheep farmers in Scotland into “League Division One” of hill farming, NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said yesterday.
He was speaking at the first open day at the college’s Kirkton and Auchtertyre hill farms at Crianlarich where the new programme was launched last year to translate scientific findings into practice. The research is designed to boost the efficiency, productivity and profitability of Scotland’s hill farms.
“This is one of the most exciting developments in hill farming in Scotland for years,” said Miller. “It is bringing SAC closer to practical farming. The various demonstrations and trials will feed directly into the farm business and bring greater value into commercial farms.”
With a 20 per cent reduction in the European sheep flock and indications of increased consumer demand for lamb in the UK, the way was open for Scottish hill farmers to fill the gap. Beef prices had increased by 10 per cent since last year, and pork was 5 per cent dearer, while lamb prices had flattened, although lamb prices to producers had remained high.
Politically, the emphasis had moved from community and environmental objectives to the need to produce more food.
“We now have the technical expertise, science and genetics to deliver greater efficiency to farms and help hill farmers meet the challenge,” said Miller.
The shift in emphasis of the research work at the two farms was recommended by an industry-led strategy group set up by SAC and NFU Scotland. Research is being funded by the Scottish Government and industry organisations, such as Quality Meat Scotland, working with an advisory group under the chairmanship of Dalmally hill farmer Sybil MacPherson, who is vice-chairman of the National Sheep Association in Scotland.
“I am delighted with the work going on at Kirkton which will be of real benefit to hill farmers,” said MacPherson.
SAC chief executive Prof Bob Webb said the advisory group was proving a useful forum in identifying the challenges lying ahead for hill farming.
“These are early days but we are actively engaged in exploring practical approaches to modern hill farming,” he said.
Developments include the setting up a new flock of 600 Blackface ewes and a re-seeding programme has also been started.
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