A FARM that has been in the same south mainland family for over 150 years and is now run by two young sisters has been announced as Scotland’s sixth “monitor farm”.
Bigton Farm, run by 23 year old Kirsty Budge and 19 year old Aimee Budge, is one of what will eventually be nine monitor farms established as part of a three-year joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
The Budge family has farmed in the area since way back in 1860, initially as tenants before the sisters’ great-grandfather bought the farm in 1950. They also own the nearby Toab Farm and the two are run side-by-side.
They have been involved with the farm from an early age and took over the day-to-day running of the business in 2014 with support from their family.
Kirsty also works as a teacher, while Aimee is in the final year of an HND in agriculture at SRUC Aberdeen Campus and works on the farm outwith term time.
In total, the sisters farm 300 hectares, most of which is permanent pasture and intensive grassland. They have 240 Shetland ewes, which are kept on the picturesque St Ninian’s Isle for most of the year, along with 70 calving cows.
Kirsty said: “We are happy with our sheep numbers but would like to see if we can improve our lambing percentages and the growth rates of our lambs so that we can get them away quicker.”
Bigton is one of a handful of Shetland farms suited to growing barley, wth the family harvesting around 60 tonnes this year – mostly to feed livestock – and they are keen to increase that output as they see a strong market to sell it within the islands.
They are hopeful that being monitor farmers will help develop their business and make it profitable, and that other farmers and crofters will be able to benefit from the programme too.
Aimee said: “Farming [in] Shetland has some unique challenges – a short growing season means that cattle on the island are usually housed for longer, increasing feed costs.
“The weather, especially the high winds, can also be a challenge, and transport costs for animals, feed and other supplies are also much higher compared with most farms on the mainland.”
She added: “While there are certainly challenges, there are also a lot of positives. Shetland is a beautiful place to live and work and has a wonderful farming community. People here are incredibly friendly and supportive and we really hope that the local farmers will get involved and make the project successful.”
The aim of establishing a monitor farm programme is to improve profitability, productivity and sustainability of producers through practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practice and the discussion of up-to-date issues.
- The new Shetland monitor farm aims to hold its first meeting in the new year. Those interested in getting involved can contact Graham Fraser of SAC Consulting Lerwick on (01595) 693520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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