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Scotch Beef Farm of the Year

Scotch Beef Farm of the Year 2023 Results

Firm of T Hodge, Rulesmains Farm – WINNER

Finalists:

Carriston Farm

Carskiey Farm

 

The AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year is Sponsored by ABP

The AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year is supported by Quality Meat Scotland

Beef Farm of the Year sponsored by ABP

Firm of T Hodge, Rulesmains Farm, Scottish Borders

Emma alongside parents Jill and Andrew Hodge runs a mixed arable and pedigree cattle farm at Rulesmains, Duns in the Scottish Borders. The family team runs 110 pedigree Aberdeen-Angus, 30 commercial Angus, and a handful of pedigree Herefords. The Hodges breeds for length, easy natural fleshing, breed character, and critical profitability. The herd regularly sells cattle for five figures at Stirling Bull sales and brings home rosettes from the Scottish show circuit. At the heart of the business is a drive for profit which means they aim to have finishers ready 13 to 14 months old. Recently they have started putting their Hereford bull over their commercial cows to produce Black Baldys for their easy fleshing on grass and quiet nature. On the arable side, the business aims to maximise yield and find the livestock and crop enterprises complement each other well. Andrew took over Rulesmains from his father Thomas, who bought the farm in the 1960s and Emma is taking the business into its third generation.

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2022 Scotch Beef Farm of the Year – Auchmaliddie Mains

Harry Brown of Auchmaliddie Mains, Aberdeenshire, runs a herd of 200 predominantly Limousin-cross sucker cows and buys in 200 store cattle per annum to finish, fattening all animals on the 750-acre farm. Of the 400 cattle finished per year, around 30 are sold direct to the customer via farmers’ markets or doorstep deliveries, as Harry and his family work to foster local relationships.

Their beef system transformed with the introduction of the Ritchie Weigh Monitor, with cattle being weighed daily. Underperformers are quickly identified and removed from the herd, saving money on feed, and allowing only the highest quality animal to enter the food chain. Traceability is key, with digital software accelerating the monitoring process and translating as increased efficiencies. And, collaborating with their farm nutritionist and vet on a regular basis, Harry ensures that his animals are always in peak condition.

With a focus on sustainability, the family have constructed a new outdoor silage pit to cut down on plastic use and increase indoor capacity for bedding pens. Carbon audits, soil analytics and GPS technology have also been key to assessing the wider impact of the farm enterprise.

After months of deliberation and a host of impressive farms to choose from, the finalists for this year’s AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year award have now been announced. 

Harry Brown, Auchmaliddie Mains

Harry Brown of Auchmaliddie Mains, Aberdeenshire, runs a herd of 200 predominantly Limousin-cross sucker cows and buys in 200 store cattle per annum to finish, fattening all animals on the 750-acre farm, with an additional 200 acres of seasonal lets. Of the 400 cattle finished per year, around 30 home bred heifers are sold direct to the customer via farmers’ markets or doorstep deliveries, as Harry and his family work to foster local relationships, and share their story of how the meat is produced. 

The cattle complement the crop enterprise and keep the farm on a healthy rotation. And with a focus on sustainability, the family have constructed a new outdoor silage pit to cut down on plastic use and increase indoor capacity for bedding pens. Carbon audits, soil analytics and GPS technology have also been key to assessing the wider impact of the farm enterprise. 

One of the steps the farm has taken to improve the system was by introducing the Ritchie Weigh Monitor, with cattle being weighed daily. Underperformers are quickly identified and removed from the herd, saving money on feed, and allowing only the highest quality animal to enter the food chain. Traceability is key, with digital software accelerating the monitoring process and translating as increased efficiencies. And, collaborating with their farm nutritionist and vet on a regular basis, Harry ensures that his animals are always in peak condition. 

David and Ian Richardson, Upper Samieston Farm

Father and son team, David and Ian Richardson of Upper Samieston Farm in Jedburgh, run a mixed beef and sheep enterprise comprising of 500 Texel cross ewes and 500 suckler cows, with calves sold as stores. 

They run a tight 10-week calving block in the spring to ensure level batches for the store ring and this year calved 300 cows in the first four weeks. They run a relatively closed herd, breeding their own replacement females and some bulls, but the majority of calves are sold at six to seven months.  

They have been selling stores at the top of the market with last year’s calves averaging £915 for bullocks and £880 for heifers. In order to optimise growing rates, mineral analysis is carried out on silage and summer grazing to help create a bespoke mineral management plan. 

Improving animal welfare is key and the farm is part of the SAC Premium Cattle Health Scheme. All calves are pneumonia tested and plans are in place to remove the straw blower this winter in an attempt to cut down on respiratory problems. 

James Young, Girvan Mains Farm 

South Ayrshire-based James Young farms at Girvan Mains, with a 450-strong herd of beef cows and an additional 2000 –2500 stores. Angus, Saler and Limousin cows are run by Charolais bulls, with Angus and Salers put on heifers and first calvers. The system focuses on productivity, getting top quality beef-bred calves to finished weight as quickly as possible. 

Investing in an anaerobic digester in 2016, and a ground source heat pump in 2019 for drying crop, primarily grass, which is then used in the enterprise’s TMR, further investing in a weight head and hydraulic cattle crushes has made it simpler and safer to work with larger numbers, as well as making it easy for the data collection, with poor performers identified and culled out. This has made his operation more efficient smf has allowed James to increase his finishing capacity by up to 400.  

To maximise herd health, James works very closely with his veterinary team, and has developed a vaccine specifically for his holdings as a way to reduce losses. Nutrition is central to the rearing process, but James maintains that correctly breeding animals in the first instance makes it easier to meet final market specifications. 

The winner of the Scotch Beef Farm of the Year will be announced at AgriScot on 16 November.

Drumbreddan Farm – AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year 2021

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The recipient of the prestigious AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year award was announced on Wednesday 9 February.

The accolade, which is managed by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and sponsored by Thorntons Solicitors, was awarded to Drumbreddan Farm in Ardwell, Stranraer.

Father and son team Lamont and Daniel Hair run Drumbreddan Farm near Stranraer. Across 1320 acres, they run 360 cows split into three calving groups each of 120 with all progeny finished. At any time, there is 850 – 900 stock on the farm and all cows are dairy cross bred with Angus, Limousin, Hereford and the odd British Blue.

For almost twenty years, the Hair family has worked on what they call their ‘20/10 system’ where three times during the year the bulls will be with the cows over a fifty-day period. This provides calving periods of February/March, June/July and October/November which supports cash flow, better use of bulls, easier management of calf groups and better all year-round use of the finishing sheds.

The lead assessor for the award, QMS Head of Industry Development Bruce McConachie, said that it was a difficult task to choose from the three outstanding finalists.

“All three finalists were worthy of the title of AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year, but what Danny and Lamont have built is dynamic, working with other businesses to create its own supply chain.

“The system itself is innovative and provides sustainability and simplicity, coupled with a close relationship with the processors and retailers they work with. They have a clear business model and a focus on cow health and fertility for longevity, with an eye on succession and the long-term vision for the business.”

With a number of high-calibre entries, Drumbreddan Farm edged out finalists Durie Farms, run by Douglas Christie in Fife, and Adziel run by Jim and Irene Fowlie based near Fraserburgh.

Daniel Hair said: “We were delighted when it was announced that we were finalists, but to then go on and be named the Scotch Beef Farm of the Year, makes us extremely proud of the efforts of everyone involved in the farm. It’s incredibly important to us that we efficiently produce sustainable and nutritious Scotch Beef that meets our processors and retailer requirements.”

AgriScot Chairman and assessor for the Scotch Beef Farm of the Year award, Robert Neill, said: “It was a real pleasure to visit all three farms and to meet farmers who are focused on making the very best of the resources they have. A huge congratulations to our finalists, and the 2021 AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year recipients, Drumbreddan Farm.”

As well as demonstrating a high standard of technical and financial performance, those assessing the farms looked for evidence of the uptake of new ideas to improve efficiency and profitability and whether the businesses had an eye on the market for the end product.

The farms were also assessed on the passion and enthusiasm of the farmer and others involved in the business, to efficiently produce high quality animals.

Kenneth Mackay, partner and head of the Land and Rural Business team at Thorntons, said: “We’re proud to help support AgriScot and recognise the achievements of those within the agricultural sector. All three finalists are excellent ambassadors for the Scottish beef sector and congratulations to Drumbreddan Farm.”   

Scotch Beef Farm of the Year 2018

Agriscot 2018 Photographer: Allan Bovill (07971 474 562) Agriscot 2018 Winners of the Scotch Beef Farm of the Year. Photographer: Allan Bovill (07971 474 562)

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East Lothian Farm Announced as AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year 2018

Over the last two weeks the team of assessors visited each of the finalist farms to gauge the passion and enthusiasm of the farmer, and family and staff where relevant, to efficiently produce high quality animals.

Robert Fleming was quick to praise all three businesses. He said: “The finalists are all excellent examples of Scotch Beef production. They each have very different systems but all share a common focus on ensuring their businesses return a profit.”

With regard to Bielgrange, Robert Neill commented: “Understanding their opportunities with location and other enterprises in the farming business has led the Jeffrey’s to develop a beef enterprise that not only compliments their overall system but produces highly sought-after prime cattle. Utilising collaboration and technology to maximise cattle performance and keep a firm control of costs.”

Douglas Bell added: “It was a real pleasure to visit all three farms and to meet farmers who are focused on making the very best of the resources they have.”

Kenneth Mackay, partner in the Land and Rural Business team at Thorntons Solicitors, said: “We are delighted to sponsor the AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year award; it is a wonderful way to celebrate the fantastic beef industry we have in Scotland. Many congratulations to the Jeffrey’s on their success this year.”

All farms producing cattle destined to be used for meat sold under the Scotch Beef PGI label – from breeders through to finishers – were eligible to apply for the award and required to be members of QMS’s quality assurance scheme.

Scotch Beef Farm of the Year 2017

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Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing flanked by Robert and John Fleming, winners of the AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year award. 

 

Castle Sinniness near Glenluce, run by the Fleming family, has been named as the winner of the 2017 AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year award, run by AgriScot and Quality Meat Scotland, and sponsored by Thorntons Solicitors.

The farm is one of three, extending to a total of 240 hectares, run in partnership by Robert Fleming with his father John and mother Rachael, with support from part-time member of staff Frazer Mitchell. The family run a low-input grass and forage-based system which supports the main herd of 220 Aberdeen-Angus and Angus cross suckler cows and followers.

The award judges were impressed with the Fleming’s grasp of costs, margins and the targets needed to make a profit. The family also focus on using grazing techniques to maximise profits from grass, including a novel approach to finishing cattle on an intensive grazing platform using the latest fencing technology.

The family has established a successful paddock grazing system which has boosted grassland productivity and allowed them to support a further 250 – 600 grazing cattle managed on a contract basis. They also have a flock of 65 Roussin sheep and winter a further 250 hoggs.

The aim of the AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year Award is to showcase excellence in the production of cattle in Scotland and raise the profile of the dedication and stock management skills behind the production of Scotch Beef PGI.

The other two finalists were Birks Farm, near Carluke, run by Douglas and James Frame, and Pitgaveny Farm near Elgin, owned by Rebecca Russell and her brother Crinan Dunbar, and managed by Martin Birse with head stockman Geoff Anderson.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing commented: “I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the Fleming family on being named 2017 Scotch Beef Farm of the Year. They are excellent ambassadors for our Scottish beef sector and I wish them further success moving forward.”

The judging panel for the award consisted of AgriScot board member Robert Neill, QMS head of industry development Doug Bell, and AgriScot Scotch Beef Farm of the Year 2016 winner Robert Parker.

“The three finalist farms were very different but shared a determination to keep improving the performance of their herds and continuously seek out opportunities to grow their businesses,” said Mr Neill.

Mr Bell added: “It was a real pleasure to visit all three farms and to meet farmers who are focused on making the very best of the resources they have. As well as a real passion for the jobs they do, they share a willingness to open their minds to new ideas and technology to constantly seek out better ways of running their businesses.”

“We are incredibly chuffed to have won,” said Robert Fleming. “The award is great recognition of what we are doing but there is always scope for further improvements and we’ll continue to focus on increasing our output by making the best use of our forage.”

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