Hebridean ewe in the Outer Hebdrides© FLPA/Mike Powles/REX/Shutterstock

Farmers in Scotland have until Friday (30 September) to apply to become a “monitor farm” and benefit from free business advice.

Nine new monitor farms are to be set up by QMS Scotland and AHDB Oilseeds & Cereals, providing farmers with support to improve their profitability, productivity and sustainability.

The host farmer for each monitor farm will open his or her business to experts and local farmers who will look at strengths and weakness and provide advice on changes that could improve the business.

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Monitor farms, typical of their areas, will be established in:

  • Nithsdale
  • Scottish Borders
  • North Ayrshire
  • Lothians
  • Mearns and Angus
  • Lochaber
  • Morayshire
  • Sutherland
  • Shetland

The programme will be funded by £1.25m from the Scottish government and the EU.

What does is involve?

Throughout the three-year programme, each monitor farm will host six meetings a year, with a further three held annually by the benchmarking group.

Each farm will focus on agriculture typical to the area, but bring all nine farmers together to discuss relevant aspects of the business.

It is hoped this will help farmers develop their management practices and create resilient businesses.

Graham Fraser, consultant at SAC Consulting, said other farmers could get involved by becoming members of groups associated with a monitor farm.

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Meeting attendees will benefit from practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practices, discussions of up to date issues, expert advice and the introduction of new ideas which they can implement in their businesses.

Programme has benefitted business, says monitor farmer

Steven Sandison, an ex monitor farmer in Orkney, said its added great value to his business and opened his eyes to a range of opportunities.

“The importance of bench-marking the performance of my cattle was a key learn from the monitor farm experience,” said Mr Sandison.

He also said the most valuable aspect of benchmarking was to be able to compare his latest results with previous year’s figures. 

Criteria and how to apply

To be a monitor farmer, farming must be the full-time profession of at least one family member.

The farmer must be willing to disclose information about their businesses with a group of neighbouring farmers and embrace the opportunity to innovate.

The application deadline is Friday 30 September. More information on who can apply and how can be found on QMS Scotland’s website.