Quality over quantity is the name of the silage game for winning Aberfeldy-based producer, Ian Duncan Millar.

He has not only managed to reduce expenditure by targetting superior quality silage crops, but ultimately bolstered livestock production rates without the need to dramatically alter his system.

Located in upland Perthshire, Tirinie Farm has been home to Ian and his family for more than 60 years and comprises 320 acres split over a variety of soil profiles to include flat and light sandy loams, as well as medium heavy loams.

Tirinie’s acreage encompasses some 110 acres of malting barley, four acres of oats for livestock consumption and between 30 and 40 acres of kale for overwintering sheep, with the remainder being left as rotational grazing for the farm’s 500 Easycare cross sheep, 30 Salers and Simmental cross cattle and 130 head of young stock.

With quality remaining at the forefront of all enterprises at Tirinie, it comes as no surprise that Ian regularly attains awards for his silage and this year saw him produce the winning sample in the British Grassland Society’s East of Scotland division with a baled silage, and reserve in the beef and sheep pit section.

“We did win the beef and sheep section in 2005, however, this is the biggest achievement for our silage and I’m delighted,” Ian commented.

“Our silage is regularly analysed by SRUC and knowing that I would be happy to have my analysis put forward for scrutiny, the college entered the sample on my behalf.”

Interestingly, Ian’s winning sample came from a third cut of baled silage based on an analysis comprising a D Value of 72.8% with a 42.8% dry matter. The sample also boasted an ME of 11.6MJ per kg of dry matter, a 17.2% protein level and an intake factor of 125, making it one of the best cuts of silage ever produced at Tirinie.

“Technically, it is the best crop ever made here. However, it is similar to the high quality crop we aim to produce each year,” stated Ian.

“Although this was a third cut sample, we usually only produce two cuts each year, with the first cut comprising of around 40 acres and just a tad more for our second cut, depending on grazing requirements.”

Ian relies on a Watson Seeds Fyvie mixture, containing a high clover content, which works well for cutting and grazing on the farm’s lighter and sandier soils, but is also suited to all soil variants.

“Going back a few years, we have used different mixtures. However, I tend to stick with what works best for my system and that was the Watson Seeds mixture,” said Ian.

“One very important feature, for me, is the amount of protein that we can grow on the farm ourselves. If we can grow high protein feeds on the farm, then we don’t need to purchase extra protein.

“I’m always striving to do my bit for sustainability by growing what we need and not buying in, so there’s ultimately a financial and environmental benefit by doing this. I’m convinced that the highly productive grasses are capturing a lot of carbon and have a lot to offer in helping the planet, which positively impacts our environment,” he added.

With a view to helping reduce his carbon footprint, Ian’s winning sample was, coincidentally, an on-farm experiment being wrapped in a clear plastic to see how the product faired with a view to lowering the farm’s recycling costs.

“As we opened the first bale, the material looked and smelled just as it should – rocket fuel – and the cows devoured it with enthusiasm,” said Ian.

Ian works his grass hard throughout the year too. The first cut silage fields are used for lambing, before being shut off for just four weeks and then harvested into a pit.

Cutting begins in the first week of June, with the second cut taking place in the first week of July and thereafter, the field is left to be grazed by lambs.

“Once you start to see the grass heading, it is too late, so we aim to be cutting early to allow for quick regrowth. Last year, we had our first cut and pitted on June 1, with the second cut and baled on July 4 and the third baled on August 15,” commented Ian.

With Ian cutting, spreading and rowing-up the silage himself, he relies on two contractors to help pit and bale his silage.

“To pit the silage, I rely on Bob Pearson, based at Redgorton, as he has a chopper and our immediate neighbours, J and A Henderson, to bale it all with their equipment,” he stated.

“Both contractors are experienced, very reliable and get the job done quickly and efficiently, which is exactly what I need at the end of the day.”

Choosing the correct fertiliser is a crucial aspect of Ian’s system to ensure he is producing the best silage possible and maintaining the health of his soil.

“All the grassland at Tirinie is applied with Fibrophos 0.14.14 P and K fertiliser. I apply exactly 375kg per ha and then after each cut, apply a further 150kg per ha of 16:16:16,” stated Ian.

“I have relied on Fibrophos for years and it has proved a good product, which suits our soil and leaves some trace elements. We also rely solely on clover for nitrogen for the first cut and across all the grazing fields, which helps reduce costs too.”

Re-seeding fields can leave many benefits when it comes to crop production and rearing livestock, and with Ian regularly re-seeding his fields to ensure he is producing high quality young grass, he is also getting the most out of the ground whilst ensuring his arable crops have a nitrogen-rich environment to grow in.

“I’m quite old fashioned and like to work on a rotation, with the heavier land containing rocks not being ploughed but rotated depending on how the grass is doing. Between five to seven years, the field is directly sown with kale and, once grazed, it’s sown back into grass,” Ian explained.

On Tirinie’s lighter and sandier soil, ploughing takes place and grass is left for five years before being sown with either barley or oats for up to three years. Following the cereal, kale is sown, before being re-seeded again with malting barley for three years.

“I find this rotation allows me to get the most out of the ground and both the crop and livestock benefit from the high quality soil. I sow Laureate barley for its high yield, which is grown on contract for East of Scotland Farmers,” Ian added.

Ian also makes use of his barley straw, mixing it with the silage to produce a high quality forage to feed livestock.

“Our silage and straw is fed in trailers to our out-wintered heifers and cows, which lasts for around three days,” he said. “The college also does our cattle rations and the cows are fed a mix of both silage and barley straw, which is proving beneficial as the cows don’t require any extra nutrition, meaning we don’t have to buy in concentrates.

“Once calving kicks off, all we do is reduce the quantity of the straw and increase the silage proportion,” he explained.

Looking to the future, Ian hopes to continue his winning ways by striving to produce high quality products.

“I’m quite happy with the system I have in place here at Tirinie and winning the silage competition was the cherry on top, proving that all our hard work paid off in the end by produced a high quality product," he concluded.


  • Tirinie Farm is based in Aberfeldy, comprises 320 acres and has been home to Ian Duncan Millar since 1959.
  • Growing 110 acres of malting barley, with some being fed to livestock if it doesn't meet the malting spec', as well as four acres of oats for livestock consumption. Some 30-40 acres of kale are grown to overwinter sheep, with the remainder being rotational grass. Around 40 acres of silage are cut per year at least twice depending on grazing requirements.
  • Tirinie is home to 500 Easycare cross ewes, which are put to a Suffolk ram and 30 Salers cross and Simmental cross cattle. All stock is home-bred. Some 130 young stock are also kept, comprising yearling heifers and bulls, with the best females retained for replacements while the remainder are finished.
  • Calving in March, with lambing kicking off in April.


  • Best investment?: I would say the Ritchie cattle handling system as it handles cattle safely, making the job quicker and easier.
  • Favourite restaurant?: The Waterfront, in Kenmore, for it's great food!
  • Abiding memory?: It would have to be opening a conference in front of the Princess Royal, at the packed lecture theatre at Moredun. She is an extremely knowledgeable person and is very interested in what we do.
  • Biggest achievement?: Chairing the Moredun Foundation Board, which is the parent body that owns the science park and research facility at the Moredun Institute. I stepped down in 2020 after chairing the organisation for eight years.