THERE was a healthy turnout of converted monitor farm enthusiasts and interested parties at the most recent arable monitor farm meeting where stubble turnips took centre stage.

Midlothian-based event at Prestonhall and Saughland farms, encouraged farmers to share their experiences, hear a review of livestock and arable performance and gain an insight into a collaborative pilot between the two units to establish a mutually beneficial crop of stubble turnips.

Bill Gray, farm and estate manager at Prestonhall, took the group to visit his stubble turnip cover crops which will be used to feed Saughland’s lambs next year.

Bill hopes to improve the soil structure by bringing organic matter back onto the farm through using the lambs to graze cover crops and catch crops.

There is a real desire from both sides to make this work, but a group discussion accepted that it will be easier to measure the benefit to the livestock farmer, as lambs finish quicker and releases land for breeding ewes etc, but that the improvement in soil structure and payback in improved crops yields is longer term and more difficult to gauge.

Peter Eccles, manager at Saughland, led the livestock review, focusing on how the genetics had performed and how they might be improved for next season.

Both Mr Gray and Mr Eccles have felt the impact of the continued wet weather and the open day provided an opportunity to share and discuss strategies as a group as to how to mitigate potential loss in production for next year.

Bill and Pete had live data available for the 2017 harvest and livestock stock sales.

There was huge value in this for the group as they plan ahead after such a challenging year. Having a good marketing strategy was a theme for the arable sector visitors and flexibility when marketing livestock was important when grass growth and ground conditions are unpredictable, such as in a year like this.

Mr Eccles, who looks after 2500 breeding sheep and a herd of Hereford and Aberdeen-Angus cross sucklers, said: “There are real benefits to be had from local farming communities coming together to share experience and ideas. We are always trying to improve what we do here at Saughland and so much of that comes from knowledge transfer through discussion and farm visits.”

The partnership is one of nine new monitor farms established in Scotland as part of a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds, with funding from the Scottish Government.

The aim is to help improve profitability, productivity and sustainability of producers through practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practice and the discussion of up-to-date issues