Quality Meat Scotland’s future strategy to further support, develop, promote and protect the Scottish red meat industry has been highlighted to MSPs.

An event at the Scottish parliament, hosted by Peter Chapman MSP, focussed on the detail of the strategy which aims to deliver a range of new activities and initiatives to support and develop a sustainable, professional, profitable and resilient Scottish red meat sector.

MSPs at the Holyrood event also welcomed plans to build on close collaboration between all the links in the Scottish red meat supply chain to maximise market opportunities both at home and abroad.

Speaking at the event, which was also attended by representatives from the wider agricultural sector, Alan Clarke, chief executive of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), said the organisation was in a strong position to support the supply chain during this period of political and economic uncertainty.

“The development of our new strategy followed full and careful consideration of the factors influencing the different parts of the Scottish red meat industry and the challenges and opportunities which exist,” said Mr Clarke.

“Around 50,000 jobs in Scotland are dependent on our industry and it is essential that we continue to robustly support and protect it. We can do this by enhancing and evolving our existing activities as well as concentrating on new route to market opportunities and allocating marketing spend close to point of purchase.

“The objective of this is to increase the availability of Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork in new export markets and in UK retailers, further encouraging consumers to purchase our world-class brands which are underpinned by high animal welfare and production methods,” he added.

Mr Clarke also highlighted the organisation’s work to encourage the uptake of new technology and techniques to improve on-farm profitability. This includes a new project recently awarded through the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF) which is designed to prove several concepts around the use of DNA analysis for meat traceability and integrity as well as cattle performance development.

For further information on QMS activities, please visit: www.qmscotland.co.uk or follow Quality Meat Scotland on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Borders Monitor Farm feature changes at final meeting

The final meeting of the Borders monitor farm will take place at the end of this month (29 January, 2020)

The Mitchell family from Whitriggs Farm in Denholm, has embraced their role as monitor farmers wholeheartedly and the upcoming meeting will highlight the significant changes they have made over the three-year project to their farm enterprises to improve profitability and efficiency.

Starting with tea and coffee at 10.30am, the meeting at Whitriggs Farm near Denholm, will also discuss the achievements and benefits of the programme to the Monitor Farm as well as the local community.

Robert and Lesley Mitchell farm in partnership with their son Stuart. They run a herd of 170 suckler cows at their 442ha farm as well as a breeding herd of 300 red deer. Stuart took on the responsibility of the day to day decision making at Whitriggs in 2018 and is keen to ensure that Whitriggs continues to develop.

At the start of the programme the full community group decided on the vision to 'Maintain a profit in a challenging environment'. Throughout the three years they have made many changes towards this, including introducing a new enterprise, and diversifying their production system to organic.

Stuart Mitchell said: “We have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Monitor Farm Programme for the last three years. The input from specialists and support from the community group and facilitators has been vital in some of our decision making.

“The biggest developments we have implemented include moving to a six-week calving period, investigating our underperforming sheep flock, and the introduction of the new deer enterprise.

“Our business is now in a much better position for the future than when we started the programme, and we are positive it will continue to move forward.”

At the final meeting, QMS chair, Kate Rowell will talk about her time as a monitor farmer, her experience since finishing the programme and the positive effect it has had on her farming business.

Attendees will also have the chance to hear from Oliver McEntryre, head of agriculture at Barclays Bank, who will discuss setting a vision for the future. Dr Paul Thomas from Plantation Systems will speak on carbon sequestration and management.

Whitriggs is one of nine 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 of the monitor farm programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

The meeting on Tuesday, 29 January will be held at Whitriggs farm, near Denholm, TD9 8QR and will begin at 10.30am. Lunch will be provided at Cross Keys, Denholm. The meeting is expected to finish by 3pm. All are welcome and the event is free.

For further information and to book your place (and lunch) please contact facilitator Fergus Younger on 07771 966649 or email fergus.younger@saos.coop