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Upper Nisbet Farm, Scottish Borders (Arable)

Upper Nisbet was one of our first four Climate Change Focus Farms and participated in the project from 2011 to 2014. Although best known for their award winning beef, they concentrated on the arable aspects of the farm.

Robert and Jac have 242 ha of winter wheat, winter barley, spring barley and beans, 202 ha under grass and rent an additional 80 ha of grass on a neighbouring farm.

In terms of livestock, Upper Nisbet has 300 Limousin cross cows with all progeny finished on the farm. Robert and Jac Neill are previous winners of The Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year in 2006 and AgriScot QMS Scotch Beef Farm of the Year Award in 2012.

What were the key findings from Upper Nisbet?

Over the course of the initiative, Robert and Jac investigated a range of measures and implemented  changes to current practice.  Key findings include:

  • Knowing the value of FYM on the farm - plus GPS soil analyses of Phosphorous and Potassium levels and pH, meant improved targeting of nutrients to where it was needed on the farm, saving on the fertiliser bill.
  • Better management of the farm fleet meant fuel use decreased - red diesel use has been cut by 12.7% and kerosene use is down  by 43.3% compared with baseline data.  
  • Managing grass as a crop and increasing grass/clover leys in the rotation - allowed young cattle to be kept at home rather than away wintered, achieving more output from the home farm.

Through these and other measures, Robert and Jac achieved financial savings of just over £19,000 and the overall farm carbon footprint was reduced by 19% in 2014 compared to baseline year of 2011.

Did Robert and Jac find the programme useful?

Jac Neill said “Taking part in this study has focused our thinking throughout our business and as well as finding ways to reduce our footprint we have been able to make cost savings. The group meetings covered many interesting topics and on many occasions led to a lively debate with neighbouring farmers and advisors. Farmers must be prepared to analyse their business and often all it takes is for small changes to be made to current working practices to improve efficiency and increase profits. We would encourage any farmers who get the opportunity to take part in a study such as this to grasp the opportunity.”

Congratulating Robert and Jac on their success, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead MSP said “I would like to thank the Neills for participating in the Scottish Government’s Farming for a Better Climate initiative for the past three years. They have had great results from taking part, saving many thousands of pounds and significantly reducing emissions. It just goes to show how making a small changes to farming practice can make a big difference to finances and the environment, and I urge everyone to consider following their fantastic example as we work to tackle our changing climate.”