Suggestions to refine and improve efficiencies in cattle finishing systems will be under discussion at the next North Ayrshire Monitor farm meeting on Wednesday 30th January.

At the meeting, which will begin at Girtridge Farm, Dundonald before moving to nearby Auchans restaurant, Gavin Hill, senior beef specialist at SAC and SAC nutritionist Karen Stewart will share some suggestions to help those finishing store cattle to improve their bottom line.

John Howie runs the 140-hectare Girtridge farm, the North Ayrshire Monitor farm, in partnership with his mother and sister. They currently finish around 230 cattle all year round, some housed and others from grass.

Mr Howie currently sources store cattle between 15-24 months old from Ayr market and also privately and uses an excel spreadsheet to record as much information on the cattle he finishes as possible. Combining this information with stockmanship skills, Mr Howie was able to identify clear differences in cattle performance at Girtridge and is keen to address the issue.

At the meeting on 30th January, Gavin Hill will give an update on the current beef market. He will also provide some guidance about what to look for when sourcing store cattle either from a market or privately, to ensure that farmers select stock that will perform well on their own farms. Housing and nutrition for optimum growth rates will also be discussed.

With straw supplies tight this year, Mr Howie decided to utilise a suspended cubicle shed at Girtridge to house some of his cattle. He noticed that the performance of the cattle in this shed varied considerably, as cattle were sorting the ration, with some only eating silage.

With advice from Gavin Hill and Karen Stewart, Mr Howie has made some simple changes to how he managed the cattle in this shed. Molasses has been added to the TMR mix to bind the ration and stop self-selection and Mr Howie also reduced the number of cattle in the shed by 10% to reduce competition for food. He has also made improvements to some of the waterbowls to ensure that they delivered sufficient water for the stocking density.

"The changes we have made appear to be working. There is less competition for feed and water along and more concentrates in the latter rations,” said Mr Howie.

He added: “We are due to weigh all the stock this month, so will see if we are hitting our growth targets."

The meeting at Girtridge Farm on Wednesday 30th January will begin at 10.30am. The group will move to nearby Auchans Restaurant for lunch followed by some further presentations and should finish at 3pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

For catering purposes, those interested in coming along on 30th January should confirm attendance by calling 01292 525252 or emailing For more information about the monitor farm programme visit Optimising Performance of Grazing Livestock Through Managing Mineral Nutrition - Free Meetings Farmers looking to optimise the performance of their grazing livestock by developing their knowledge of their stock’s mineral requirements are invited to attend one of the five free meetings being organised by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) as part of its Better Grazing programme.

The events will focus on the role and sources of minerals, symptoms of deficiency and negative effects on production. The workshops will also describe the types of tests and analysis available, how to interpret the results, and how farmers can work with their vet or nutritionist to develop action plans and treatment options.

The meetings will be held on the following dates: Tuesday 5 February – Jury’s Inn, Millburn Road, Inverness, IV2 3TR Wednesday 6 February – Thainstone Centre, Inverurie, AB51 5XZ Thursday 7 February – Gloagburn Farm, Tibbermore, Perth PH1 1QL Monday 11 February – Dryfesdale Hotel, Dryfesdale, Lockerbie, DG11 2SF Tuesday 12 February – Melrose Rugby Club, Melrose, TD6 9SA