Sam Parsons is the farm director for Balcaskie Estate, near Anstruther in Fife. Sam along with his team run a large arable, beef and sheep business, who’s focus has changed in recent years, moving away from a conventional production-driven system, to a more holistic, regenerative approach. The estate is mid way through an organic conversion and utilises mob grazing and herbal leys to improve soil health and biodiversity, without compromising stock performance. Historically all cattle were housed at Balcaskie on a straw based system. In a bid to reduce costs, Sam trialled outwintering cattle on a bale grazing system which was very successful last year.
Mountfair Farming Ltd farm in the arable heartland of the Scottish Borders. It is a family business started by William Grimsdale and now run by his sons Jorin and Aidan.
The business grows a range of arable crops as owner occupiers and contract farmers. The 6 year crop rotation looks to maximise 1st wheat with break crops of spring oats, oilseed rape and vining peas or beans. Greening requirements are principally met by field margins of grass or wild bird seed, hedges and lastly fallow.
West Mains of Kinblethmont, managed by Robert Ramsay in partnership with his family, covers 750 hectares and grows winter wheat, spring and winter barley, oilseed rape and both ware and seed potatoes. After using min till (minimum tillage) techniques and linking this with yield mapping, Robert identified that even light trafficking was having a measurable impact on crop yields. Robert saw controlled traffic farming (CTF) as a way to protect farm soils and improve yields if it worked for his farming system.
Kirkton and Auchtertyre are SRUC’s research farms in the West Highlands. They manage projects using the livestock, land and vegetation on the farm. The farms rise from the cultivated flood plain of the River Fillan, climbing high above the West Highland rail line, to a series of mountain tops at the head of the catchment.
Craigengillan Estate near Dalmellington, Ayrshire is run by Mark Gibson as a mixed estate with hill farming, forestry, conservation management & diversification including holiday cottages, The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory & livery stables. The Estate has 1,140ha of hill grazing, peatland, improved pasture, and young and established woodlands.
The farm covers 303 hectares of mainly grass and hill ground. Crops include 8 ha of turnips and 40 ha of forestry. The farm runs 85 autumn calving Shorthorn and Salers. There are 250 pure Cheviot ewes plus an additional 800-1000 lambs bought in to finish.
Ednie Farm has been in Elaine’s family for 4 generations. As well as growing OSR, wheat and barley, we run a suckler herd with up to 190 cows and their followers. The herd is in the PCHS scheme and our high health status stock achieve a premium price. Ednie Farms won Royal Northern Agricultural Society Good Farming Practice Award in 2007 which recognises success in combining business efficiency with a high standard of environmental management.
Glensaugh was originally established as an experimental farm in 1943. It extends to 1,000 hectares (ha) and lies in the Grampian foothills. Glensaugh’s primary land use is hill farming, which continues to support the research programme. Over 700 ha of acid moorland complemented by improved pasture and arable land (about 70 ha) is used to feed the 400 flock of Blackface and 500 crossbred ewes, 50 Blue Grey suckler cows and 90 breeding hinds.
Kinstair Farm near Alford Aberdeenshire is run by John French as part of a wider farming and seed business. The farm covers 83 hectares and is mostly arable growing spring barley for malting and seed. The farm has also provided hill grazing for a herd of 80 beef suckler cows and calves.
My brother Gavin and I own Phantassie and Garvald Mains Farms and manage them as a single business. We grow cereals and potatoes, as well as renting out ground for vegetables and at Garvald Mains we grow cereals and run sheep and both Aberdeen Angus and continental cattle. We try to finish the cattle entirely on home-grown feed including brock tatties.
Auchnieve and Mains of Thornton are farmed by brothers Kenneth and Leslie Cooper, with the assistance of four staff. The farm business is currently split between both conventional and organic units. At Mains of Thornton, we are organic, so self sufficient in this respect.
The research side of the farm means that we have a higher staffing than normal and it also alters some of our practices but we still operate as a commercial dairy farm, milking 500+ cows three times a day with yields averaging 9,000 litres. We make grass silage, maize silage and grow cereals for feeding to dairy cows.