Grassroots drive to offset CAP blow

Johnny Mackey, of QMS, is focusing on increasing meat yield per hectare. Picture: Alan Richardson
Johnny Mackey, of QMS, is focusing on increasing meat yield per hectare. Picture: Alan Richardson
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Quality Meat Scotland is going right back to basics in trying to help this country’s 10,000 plus livestock producers at a time when almost every one of them will be losing some of their subsidy under the new common agricultural policy.

Johnny Mackey, head of industry development at QMS, said in Edinburgh yesterday that the focus would be turned on to grass in a programme aimed at increasing the kilogrammes of meat produced per hectare.

The new initiative will see five groups set up throughout Scotland on different types of grassland farms, using the already proven monitor farm model where neighbouring farmers meet and discuss in detail aspects of farm, or in this project, grass management.

The husbandry on the selected farms will look at a number of factors that influence grass growth, such as soil moisture deficit and it will also look at efficient utilisation of the grass. Grassland experts from various countries will contribute to the project, which is initially aimed to run for three years.

“There is a huge potential for efficiencies in red meat production by refining our grassland management. Currently, only 50-60 per cent of the grass we grow ends up in the rumen. It is the greatest resource we have.”

He believed there was a huge “thirst for knowledge” among farmers, despite their already hefty workload and farmers especially those in the middle 50 per cent of the profitability range would benefit from the programme. “We are trying to lift the bottom line of every business. To do so, we require to get into the guts of the business, but I believe there are some easy wins out there and farmers should benefit.”

QMS chairman Jim McLaren was also positive about the grassland project and predicted it might throw up some surprising results for producers, which might lead some of them to increase their livestock numbers.

He accepted livestock farmers would be challenged by forthcoming changes to the CAP, but said the answer lay in adapting to the change. The project will be officially launched at a major grassland event on 30 May.