GOOD GRASS management was the key focus of a farm event in Tomintoul, where farmers and vets gathered to learn about maximising production in upland livestock.

Around 80 individuals came to Ruthven Farm, which is farmed by Crown Estate Scotland tenants Jim and Lesley Simmons, to hear how proactive grass management, combined with high health and welfare livestock, could increase the productivity of upland units.

A renowned 'Grass Master' from Wales, Charlie Morgan, gave convincing evidence during the day on getting the most out of grass, as the cheapest form of feed available and how livestock farmers are able to finish lambs and calves much more efficiently.

There were lengthy discussions in the fields on soil quality and invertebrate populations, as critical components of successful grass production. Rotational grazing was another major talking point, with new rotations in evidence at Ruthven, which are working well. However, Charlie explained that rotational systems need a flexible approach, particularly in seasons like this one, where grass is in abundance and has got away in some areas. Increasing sheep numbers on rotation or using cattle to overgraze were suggested as potential solutions.

One of the take home messages of the day was to encourage farmers to learn about the health of their soil and carry out soil analysis in order to make the most of the grass on-farm. Moredun’s Dr Dave Bartley led a workshop on the use of diagnostics to inform on worming strategies, focusing on the urgent requirement to slow down resistance to the various classes of anthelmintic.

The afternoon finished with a barbecue, supplied by Cairngorm Butchers, featuring beef and lamb from local livestock producers.

Chair of the Moredun Foundation and livestock farmer, Ian Duncan Millar, said: “The importance of these events to livestock farmers cannot be underestimated, where experts in fields critical to our efficiency are available to discuss with farmers how they can improve their profit margins.”

Richard Lochhead MSP opened the event and thanked partners Moredun and Crown Estate Scotland for organising: “Livestock farming is incredibly important to the upland areas and hill farms in the Speyside area and it was great to see so many local farmers turnout to hear how they can improve productivity, increase efficiencies, and ultimately save money. Crown Estate Scotland and the Moredun Foundation deserve credit for the work they’re doing in partnership and I hope we can host more of these kinds of events locally in future.”