QUALITY Meat Scotland (QMS) has launched a search for two new monitor farms and facilitators for the Peeblesshire and Dumfries catchment areas.
The search is in response to demand from farmers in these areas and as well as seeking two new monitor farms, the steering group is also looking for local, rural professionals who would be interested in coordinating these new monitor farm projects.
The requirements for the two monitor farm projects differ with the Peeblesshire farm being a typical mixed livestock farm and for the Dumfries farm to be a beef finishing farm.
The aims of the Peeblesshire monitor farm will be to improve the profitability, productivity and sustainability of livestock producers, principally within the Peeblesshire area, through practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practice and the discussion of up to date issues.
The Dumfries monitor farm will work closely with two Scottish abattoirs, A K Stoddart and Highland Meats, to highlight best practices that are relevant to a wide range of beef finishing units across the country. The collaboration will be a first for the Scotland Monitor Farm Programme.
QMS head of Industry Development, Andy McGowan, explained that monitor farms are a platform for farm business discussions in a specific area, supported by a community group of local farmers.
“The monitor farmer works with the facilitator to share the financial and performance figures of their business and the subsequent debate within the community draws out the best ideas from the groups – it’s a great way of learning from other people’s experiences, good and bad!”
Some of this information is then shared and discussed at the monitor farm meetings which are held every few months over the three year period.
“The main objectives of the two projects are to bring local farmers and the agricultural industry together to focus on farm business improvements, efficient production and better returns from livestock enterprises,” said Mr McGowan.
The criteria for selection specify that the farms need to be members of the QMS Farm Assurance Cattle and Sheep Scheme. Farming has to be the full-time profession of at least one of the family members and the farmers need to be willing to disclose information about their businesses with a group of neighbouring farmers.
The appointed facilitators will work with their monitor farmer to show how the use of accurate baseline and benchmarking information can help to improve the profitability of the monitor farm and other farm businesses in the area.
They will use a combination of practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practice and the discussion of up to date issues to drive change within the community group of attending farmers.
The information gained from the monitor farm projects will also be used by the facilitators to provide information on farm business management to a wider Scottish audience.
Former monitor farmer and chair of NFU Scotland’s Livestock Committee, Rob Livesey, said: “In today’s environment, with an ever changing market, additional expectations and regulatory requirements on us all; it is extremely important to pool our ideas and drive profitability, both for ourselves and the next generation.
“For me, one of the most important features of the monitor farm programme is fellowship with others in the same position. Without this, it’s easy to feel isolated and unappreciated- so get out and drive the monitor farm initiative in your area!”
Operations director of A K Stoddart and QMS board member, John Craig, commented: “The monitor farm process has proven successful over a number of years now on various livestock enterprises.
“The Dumfries project, with its envisaged market focus, will still retain the on-farm advantages and is a welcome next stage development in fostering a whole-chain approach to efficient production of quality meat.“
The projects are funded by Scottish Government and Quality Meat Scotland with in-kind support from other businesses and organisations.
If you would like to nominate a monitor farm or apply to be appointed as a monitor farmer or facilitator for either the Peeblesshire of Dumfries areas, contact Andy McGowan on 0131 472 4040 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is Friday 29 June 2012.
For more information on monitor farms and to download the tender document, visit www.monitorfarms.co.uk.
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