Sticking to what they know and what their farm grows best has been the way forward for generations of the Galbraith family who farm at Upper Kinneil.
Fortunate to have a cracking fertile unit two miles from the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow – believed to be the jewel in the crown of West Lothian – the family is able to run a mixed beef, sheep and arable business.
It is best known for its expanding seed grain enterprise and, of course, regularly winning the Scottish National Fatstock Club’s cereal championship at LiveScot and the previous Winter Fair.
As an honorary president of the Scottish National Fatstock Club, Sandy Galbraith is honoured to be involved in the committee and its events and even more so now with a young, hardworking, innovative committee at the helm destined for bigger things.

The Scottish Farmer:
Major enthusiasts of the event, Upper Kinneil has exhibited grain at the Winter Fair since it was first staged at Waverley, in Edinburgh, having secured the overall grain title on no fewer than 11 occasions. But then, this well-known grower/processor unit, produces some 3000 tonnes of seed on average per year.
It’s a family business that evolved with Alex and his wife, Jane Galbraith, first selling a few tonnes of seed in the 1960s, which by the end of the 1990s had been built up to 1000+ tonnes.
Now, however, with the addition of more ground, and son, Sandy and his wife, Jenny, the farm is producing in excess of 3000-plus tonnes seed wheat and barley.
“Ten years ago, we were farming 450 acres with four men. Now, we’re farming 1085 acres and there are just two of us working full time – myself and tractor man, Dale Laughton,” said Sandy.
“We’ve always looked to be as self-sufficient as possible and that means having livestock when you’re growing arable crops. You need the muck they produce to improve soil organic matter and soil nutrition.
“I’m also a great believer in getting the best out of the ground we have, rather than jumping from one sector to another. Farming is never good in every sector, but it’s always changing and I have never been afraid of change,” Sandy said.

The Scottish Farmer:
It’s a policy which is bearing fruit as winter wheat crops on this grade two, medium loam ground, are often in excess of four tonnes per acre, with winter barley at three tonnes per acre and spring barley, depending on the variety selected, producing the same.
Grass and oilseed rape are used as break crops with the latter often yielding just short of two tonnes per acre.
With the mild winter to date, there are high hopes for yields this year too as the crops are better looking now than they ever have been in previous years for the beginning of February.
“I’ve never seen our winter barley looking as well at this time and the oilseed rape is taller than it has ever been, but it’s a long time until harvest.
With 90% of the seed sold direct to merchants and the remaining 10% sold to individual farmers having been dressed to their requirements, the business has to produce the healthiest and best quality seed available. It also has to grow the varieties demanded by the merchants.

The Scottish Farmer:
However, Sandy only concentrates on up to a couple of varieties of each – focusing mostly on spring barley – to reduce the risk of contamination in store.
For the past couple of years, 360 acres of spring barley has been sown, comprising Planet, which although classified for malting is sown for feed seed and Laureate, the new malting variety, which Sandy has been most impressed with.
“I do think Laureate is one of the best malting varieties you can grow now.  It’s cleaner and it produced more than three tonnes per acre for us last year, which is a good 10-15% higher yielding than the favourite Concerto. But it is two or three days later due to the extension of the grain fill period.
“Planet reminds me of the old Golf variety. Although it came through as a malting variety, it’s higher yielding, cleaner variety that produces more straw than Waggon which we previously grew. Planet also produces the heaviest 1000 grain weight,” Sandy added.
Winter crops comprise of 150 acres of Myriad and Zulu feed wheat and 160 acres of Tower winter barley, with 129 acres of oilseed rape also grown.
Germination and vigour are key when growing cereals for the seed market, so there is no expense spared with inputs, which includes fertiliser.
All cropping fields are ploughed to ensure a clean seedbed and to encourage germination and boost growth, Sandy includes up to 60% of the crop’s annual fertiliser requirements at sowing.
This was done with a few welding tweaks to the seed drill which along with pre-emergence weed control has bolstered crop growth, but also reduced the amount of meadow grass weeds by as much as 80%.
Normal rotation comprises OSR or grass, winter wheat, and three crops of spring or winter barley which kicks off with initial soil analysis of a field for nitrogen, phosphorus, potash and pH and then applying the nutrients required for the winter wheat crop.

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Fertilisers are applied the following year based on the nutrients the previous crop took out of the ground and the next crop to be sown, but in general, spring barley crops would receive a split application of 100 units of N and 60 each of P and K.
Winter barley would receive 160 units of N; 60 of P and 80k with winter wheat given 160 units of N; 60 P and 80 K while oilseed rape is given a split application of 180 units of N and 40 each of P and K.
In contrast to growing conventional cereal crops, all seed crops have to be inspected on a regular basis during growing, at harvest and in storage. But one of the handy things about growing for seed, is that crops are harvested slightly earlier to maximise germination and seed vigour.
“In my experience, mature, ripe seed doesn’t have the same vigour or germination, particularly in wheat, compared to younger, less mature seed,” Sandy said.
As a result, seed is never dry enough to store straight off the combine and has to be dried down to 14.5% moisture for storage during winter. Approximately 100 tonnes of wheat seed will be kept over for early autumn seeding the next year.
With all machinery owned, there’s a 240hp Fendt and one 180hp John Deere tractor, two five-furrow ploughs, a 25ft header Claas combine which is capable of harvesting 20 tonnes of spring barley per hour or 35 tonnes of winter wheat, a 20m trailed Berthoud sprayer and a 4m combination grain/fertiliser seed drill, Sandy and Dale are able to do all the tractor work.

The Scottish Farmer:
An agronomist does all crop walking and sorts out chemical formulations required. “Agronomists can also provide invaluable information about the performance of new crop varieties,” Sandy added.
In contrast to many of the larger arable units, the business as yet has not invested in GPS mapping or variable rate applications as Sandy believes the cost of the equipment and ongoing bills cannot be justified when there is little difference in the soil types within the fields at Upper Kinneil.
Instead, the the family rely more on the traditional aspects of arable farming.
“There is no substitute for doing the right job at the right time with the right tools and cattle and sheep to boost soil fertility, utilise grain screenings and hopefully leave a profit. It is all about maximising whatever you produce even when commoThe Scottish Farmer: dity prices are low. You never know when the market will spike.”                                                                                                                  All seed goes through the grader twice using a 2.55mm screen, with the first taking out 10% of the smaller seed, and the second time, a further 5% is gleaned which is bruised and fed to the cattle when required.
In all, some 60 suckler cows, their progeny and a further 150 bought in store cattle are run, with all the calves finished off home-grown feed, alongside the lambs produced from the 300 Scotch Mule ewe flock.
Needless to say, it’s business as usual at Upper Kinneil, but with the younger generation fast growing up and already showing a keen interest in all sectors, life hopefully will get easier in the next few years.
The only problem is, they too will want their own farm ... No pressure then!