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Impressive Results for Scotlands First Monitor Township

SAC2

Scotlands first Monitor Township programme drew to a close at the end of September but local crofters say they will continue to reap benefits from the project for years to come.

The Monitor Township involved eight inbye crofts with 1200Ha of common grazings at Borve on Skye. Run over three years, and involving a number of trials in livestock and grassland management practices,  the results have been very positive not only for the farming community but also for the endangered corncrake which flies in from Africa to spend the summer months on Skye.

A combined approach to grassland and wildlife management has produced better quality silage while at the same time providing a more welcoming habitat for the corncrake, which appreciates long grass in which to nest and feed.

Following local crofters concerns about low productivity from their sheep, a feedblock trial proved to be very successful in improving hill lambing percentages, while the recent purchase of a Limousin bull based on Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) has so far resulted in a very impressive 100% calving rate.

Other results of the scheme include improvements in store calves and shed design.

Reflecting on the project, Alaistar Nicolson, Township Clerk, said, We were apprehensive at the start, as it was a step into the dark.  However, we are pleased we took part and have benefited from the support of local crofters in the community group and industry experts.

It will take another few years before the full benefits of the practices we have introduced are fully known but there have been many positive outcomes and we hope that the techniques which have been beneficial for us will be taken on board by many in the wider crofting community.

Thirty-five community members gathered to mark the end of the programme and to discuss the results of involvement in the project. Peter Beattie of Quality Meat Scotland ended the meeting by thanking the crofters for their contributions and openness over the three years and contrasted the struggle the group had had in 2007 to see a way forward for crofting with the optimism that was evident now.

He noted that the route the township took to purchasing a quality bull was a model for the way other crofters could buy their bulls.  Peter then presented crystal glasses and whisky to the crofters as a thank you for all their efforts over the last three years. It is hoped that this project will be followed up by a new Monitor Farm in Skye and Lochalsh in the next year.

The Township was part of the monitor farm programme run by Quality Meat Scotland. The programme was facilitated by Janette Sutherland and Siobhan Macdonald, SAC Portree.

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