New Zealand grazing specialist to lead QMS workshop

A New Zealand grazing specialist is set to help Scottish livestock farmers interested in learning how to use grass in a more financially positive way at the next Orkney Managed Grazing event.

The event, which is run by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), will take place on Friday, March 20.

Orkney Managed Grazing currently consists of a core group of six pioneering farm businesses based on Orkney and Shetland who are working with leading livestock industry experts to develop and implement a managed grazing system that is suited to the local grass growing conditions.

The overall aim of the initiative is to increase the profitability of red meat production in Orkney through a peer-to-peer knowledge exchange network.

Over the past year, the group has been working on managed grazing techniques and are now comparing business performance through benchmarking.

The workshop will start at 9:45am at the Albert Hotel, Kirkwall, before moving onto a practical farm visit at Quanterness Farm and will be facilitated by farm consultant Michael Blanche.

“Following on from our last meeting in July, the upcoming event will focus on managing the difficult periods of the year, where grass growth is challenging.

“We will concentrate on how we can give grass the best chance by managing the Autumn, Winter and Spring more effectively and how wintering costs might be reduced,” said Blanche.

It’s been a fascinating first year working with the core group in the Orkney Managed Grazing project. They are a great bunch of people and I feel they’ve grasped rotational grazing concepts and applied them quicker than any group I’ve worked with.

Through the initiative, group members have benefitted in different ways, but some significant cost savings look likely in year two with the changes they are implementing.

Increasing profitability

“As we progress, I’m hoping more savings are made as well as increased output and performance,” said Blanche.

“All of the group has experimented with rotational grazing, the next challenge is to roll these experiments out to whole-farm systems that can be really profitable,” he added.

Key speakers attending the event include Andre Van Barneveld from Graise Consultancy and Jamie Leslie from Scholland Farm, Shetland.

Grazing specialist Andre Van Barneveld grew up in New Zealand but is now based in the Republic of Ireland. Van Barneveld has been working throughout Ireland and the UK to increase livestock output from pasture.

At the upcoming workshop, Van Barneveld will share some of his tried and tested methods for ensuring that grasslands are set up well for Spring, and how to manage grasslands when they are challenged by the weather.

As part of this session, the core group has had grass samples analysed and the results will be presented and discussed at the workshop.

Image source: QMS
Jamie Leslie

Also sharing his top tips for managing winter fodder from his livestock farm on Shetland, will be farmer Jamie Leslie.

Leslie, a finalist in the Scotch Beef Farm of the Year Award in 2019, has implemented many innovative techniques and practices to enable him to winter his livestock cheaply, including growing various fodder crops and using deferred grass.

As wintering costs can bear a significant impact on farm profitability, managing the cost of winter can yield significant benefits.

John Evans, Quality Meat Scotland knowledge transfer specialist, said: “Forward planning is the key to a successful wintering system – whether you are choosing to sow a field of brassicas, bale grazing or using deferred grass. There is no better time to plan for next winter than when this winter’s challenge is still fresh in your mind.

This workshop offers a great opportunity for Orkney farmers to hear about the successes and challenges the core group have faced over the past year and give participants the confidence to try new things on their farms.

The workshop will begin at 9.45am at the Albert Hotel. After lunch, the group will travel to Quanterness Farm (KW15 1TY) to look at grassland management in action with the aim to finish at 2:30pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

Places can be reserved on Eventbrite or by contacting John Evans at QMS on: 078-2341-7598.