Lochaber farmer opens gates as monitor farm

CHRISTOPHER CAMERON STRONE 7/11/16 Christopher Cameron tends some of his cattle at Strone Farm. PICTURE IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE

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Fort William beef and sheep farmer Chris Cameron, of Strone Farm, has opened his gates to the local farming community as part of a Scotland wide-programme.
Strone Farm was recently announced as the Lochaber monitor farm and today (Thursday January 26) was holding the first in a series of free meetings.
The Lochaber monitor farm is one of nine that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds. The aim of the programme is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.
Strone Farm will be hosting a series of 18 meetings over the next three years. The focus will be on the technical and financial challenges that the Camerons face, along with many other farming businesses in the area.
The 1,200-hectare hill farm, located in the Great Glen, is run by Chris in partnership with his father Malcolm and mother Eileen. The family, who are tenants of Lochiel and Achnacarry Estate, runs 550 North Country Cheviot ewes and 40 Limousin cows.
They have already successfully introduced some changes, but they feel there is plenty of scope for the farm to benefit further from fresh ideas which could improve the efficiency of the business.
Chris commented: ‘We are far from perfect and we know that there is plenty of scope to make improvements to our business through being part of the monitor farm project.
‘We’re also really looking forward to sharing the benefits of having a monitor farm in Lochaber with other farmers in the area.’
Niall Campbell, from SAC Consulting, a division of Scotland’s Rural College and one of Lochaber monitor farm project facilitators, encouraged other farmers in the area to get involved with the programme.
He said: ‘We are really excited to have a new monitor farm in Lochaber. Farmer-to-farmer learning, along with access to technical and expert speakers, has been proven to be the most successful way to share knowledge and best practice. This is a great opportunity, not just for Strone and farms locally, but for farmers everywhere to help improve business sustainability for the future.’
Today’s meeting will see Chris and Malcolm give a brief tour of the farm and share information about their current sheep and cattle production.
The meeting will then move to nearby Moorings Hotel in Banavie for lunch, after which the group will hear about Strone’s grassland management and current finances.
There will then be an opportunity for attendees to discuss the current strengths and weaknesses of Strone Farm and agree which aspects of the farm business should be developed in the short, medium and long term.
Representatives from QMS and AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds will also give an overview of the monitor farm programme and how local farmers can get involved.
For more information about the monitor farm programme visit www.qmscotland.co.uk or cereals.ahdb.org.uk.