FINISHING livestock to meet market specifications will be the main topic for discussion at the next meeting of the North Ayrshire Monitor farm on Wednesday, September 20.

The meeting, at Girtridge Farm, Dundonald, will focus on a live assessment of both cattle and sheep with two main speakers – Jim Gibb from processor AK Stoddart Ltd and Colin Mair of prime cattle and lamb marketing co-operative, Farmstock Scotland.

Host monitor farmer, John Howie, runs the 140-hectare farm in partnership with his mother Margaret and his sister Mary. They also own an additional 35 hectares of grazing nearby. As well as the 200 bought-in cattle that they finish, the Howies run their own small suckler herd and 140 breeding ewes.

Mr Howie said: “To optimise the potential of our livestock whilst targeting market specification is a huge challenge that can have massive financial implications. With the added element of being 100% grass fed this summer it has been a steep learning curve but we are very pleased with the results!"

At the meeting next week, Mr Gibb will lead a discussion on cattle assessment and grading and Mr Mair will discuss lamb assessment and marketing. Those present will then have an opportunity to try their hand at grading live cattle and prime lambs from Girtridge. A follow up visit to AK Stoddart has been arranged over the next couple of weeks for interested members of the community group so that they can see the carcases of the cattle that they graded at the meeting.

Also at the meeting, Mr Howie will give an update on what has been happening at the farm since the last meeting in June, and share the plans for a new cattle handling system, the design of which was discussed at the May meeting, and seek feedback on the plans from those attending.

The evening meeting, will begin at 7pm on Sept 20, with a barbecue serving Scotch Beef burgers, courtesy of A K Stoddart Ltd. To confirm your attendance, contact facilitators Raymond Crerar and Carol-Anne Warnock, SAC Consulting Ayr on 01292 525252, or email

The North Ayrshire Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds. The aim of the programme, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.