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Grantown farm run by Smith family is leading by example

By Gavin Musgrove

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Monitor farmers Calum and Malcolm Smith at Auchernack Farm.
Monitor farmers Calum and Malcolm Smith at Auchernack Farm.

Farmers are encouraged to book now for a practical meeting on body condition scoring, cattle handling and recording at the Strathspey Monitor Farm.

Livestock behaviour expert Professor Simon Turner from SRUC will be the key speaker at the event at Auchernack Farm by Grantown this Wednesday (February 21).

Mr Turner will coach attendees through efficient, accurate, and practical hands-on body condition scoring and recording techniques, with visitors having the opportunity to assess a selection of cattle belonging to Malcolm Smith, Strathspey Monitor Farmer.

He visited Auchernack last year and recommended improvements to the Smiths’ cattle handling system which visitors will be able to see.

Malcolm’s son, Calum, who holds a keen interest in improving cattle handling, said: “We’ve been working to develop a system that increases cattle throughput, reduces stress on the animals and keeps us safe in the process.

“It also needs to be portable enough to move easily between the two farms. Simon’s advice has helped us, and we will redesign it further this year.”

Malcolm commented: “The changes have already made it simpler to weigh livestock more accurately as animals are quieter and move calmly through the pens and crush.

“This is important to us as we work with Karen Stewart, SAC nutritionist, to record our calves’ weight gains while we feed our new planned rations.”

Livestock behaviour expert Simon Turner condition scoring a cow.
Livestock behaviour expert Simon Turner condition scoring a cow.

Monitoring and recording information leading up to and during calving are pivotal for efficient suckler cow production.

While electronic data recording is increasing on Scottish farms, using notebooks and pencils are still popular, and planning what to record and how to use the data beforehand can help make it easier during busy periods.

Attendees will hear about the Smiths’ current practices and can make recommendations for further improvements.

Jane Thomson, from Shearwell, has been assisting the Smiths since their transition to EID tags three years ago.

She will showcase a new EID reader and software for automatic recording of cows and calves.

Visitors will have the chance to observe optimal reader positioning and gain hands-on experience in adding livestock data to the system when animals are out of the crush.

Peter Beattie, Monitor Farm Scotland regional adviser said: “This meeting is perfectly timed to highlight the advantages of pre-calving body condition scoring. With ample time to adjust rations for improved cattle condition, getting it right results in easier calving, enhanced calf vigour, increased milk production, better overall performance, and reduced return rates for cows.

“Hands-on assessment is far more accurate than deciding by eye, and is quick too when the handling system is set up well.”

To attend the event which starts at 1.30pm sign up via bodyconditionscoring.eventbrite.co.uk or via the Monitor Farm Scotland website, or by contacting Mr Beattie on 07769 366614 or at monitorfarm@qmscotland.co.uk

The Monitor Farm Scotland programme is managed by Quality Meat Scotland and is fully funded by the Scottish Government Knowledge Transfer Innovation Fund.

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