Lochaber has lat­est mon­i­tor farm

The Oban Times - - FARMING -

STRONE Farm near Fort Wil­liam was re­vealed to­day (Thurs­day Novem­ber 10) by Qual­ity Meat Scot­land and AHDB Ce­re­als and Oilseeds as the first of a tranche of nine new mon­i­tor farms in Scot­land.

The 1,200-hectare hill farm, lo­cated in the Great Glen, is run by Chris Cameron in part­ner­ship with his fa­ther Mal­colm and mother Eileen.

The fam­ily, who are ten­ants of Lochiel and Ach­nacarry Es­tate, were in­spired to be­come mon­i­tor farm­ers af­ter at­tend­ing meet­ings held on two pre­vi­ous mon­i­tor farms on Mull and at North Con­nel.

They have al­ready suc­cess­fully in­tro­duced some changes in re­sponse to some of the main chal­lenges the farm faces, in­clud­ing an an­nual rain­fall of 120 inches and a ma­jor fox prob­lem at lamb­ing time.

How­ever, they feel there is plenty of scope for the busi­ness to ben­e­fit from fur­ther changes and fresh ideas which could im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of the farm, which runs 550 North Coun­try Che­viot ewes and 40 pure Li­mousin cows.

Chris, who has three young chil­dren with his wife Tina, will be tak­ing over the reins from his fa­ther in the months ahead.

He is par­tic­u­larly keen to have a very clear un­der­stand­ing of the farm’s per­for­mance by care­fully bench­mark­ing fig­ures.

Chris said: ‘ 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. That said, we are also a bit ner­vous.’

One chal­lenge the Cameron fam­ily face is that most of the farm’s bet­ter qual­ity grass is found on the other side of the Cale­do­nian Canal to the main hold­ing.

Ac­cess to this graz­ing land in­volves go­ing un­der the Cale­do­nian Canal through a tun­nel which isn’t large enough for an- ything other than a quad bike.

Mal­colm added: ‘We are on the edge of agri­cul­ture here in many re­spects.

‘ We try our best, but any small im­prove­ment we can make as a re­sult of be­ing mon­i­tor farm­ers, will make a big dif­fer­ence to our farm’s pro­duc­tiv­ity.’

The Cameron fam­ily are big fans of the Li­mousin breed which they feel per­form very well for them, and store calves from the herd reg­u­larly top the sale prices at Ding­wall.

‘ We orig­i­nally had hill breeds but the move to Li­mousins has seen good re­sults.

‘We think the Li­mousins give us the best con­fir­ma­tion and they work well for us at Strone,’ said Chris.

Prepa­ra­tions are un­der way to hold the first meet­ing at the new Lochaber Mon­i­tor Farm early in the new year.

Any­one in­ter­ested in be­ing in­volved should con­tact Niall Camp­bell and Mor­ven MacArthur, SAC Con­sult­ing Oban on 01631 563093, or email FBSOban@sac.co.uk.

Chris Cameron of Strone Farm near Fort Wil­liam is part of the mon­i­tor farm project.

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