Major Moves on Monitor Farms

First Orkney monitor farmer announced, two new monitor farms for Forth and Clyde Region plus Pig Monitor farm search starts

The momentum behind the monitor farm network in Scotland continues to gather pace with a number of major announcements.

At its AGM in St Andrews today (Tuesday, 14 February), NFU Scotland announced that Stephen Sandison of Millburn, Harray is to be Orkney’s first monitor farmer.  NFUS will manage the three-year project and SAC will act as facilitators.

At the same event, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), with support from NFUS launched a search for two new monitor farms and facilitators for the Forth and Clyde Region. As well as seeking two new livestock farms, the steering group is also looking for those who would be interested in co-ordinating these new monitor farm projects.  

QMS has also launched the search for a new pig monitor farm in Scotland as the project moves into a new phase that will be based around a single monitor farm, but feature five regional groups to discuss lessons learned from the farm.

The monitor farm approach is now well established across Scotland.  It utilises a facilitator to study the financial and performance figures of the monitor farm and establish the long-term aims of the farmer.   It then seeks to improve farm profitability through a process of peer review from fellow farmers backed by advice, specialist input and facilitator support. Projects typically last three years, with on farm meetings involving the local group held every three or four months.

All monitor farm projects benefit from significant support, generally through the Scottish Government’s Skills Development Scotland fund.

Speaking from St Andrews, Orkney farmer Stephen Sandison, who runs 110 beef cows on 330 acres, said:

“It is an honour to be Orkney’s first monitor farm and I can’t wait to get started with the meetings, which should begin in May.  I have always been interested in the performance and technical side of the business but as a farmer, you can always learn.  It is a three-year commitment but I hope that by the end of the project, with the input from other farmers and experts, we will have a better business for the future.

SAC’s George Baikie, who will help facilitate the Orkney project said:

“Working with NFUS in Orkney has been very successful over the last few years.  The Farming for the Future project worked well and we are now taking that to the exciting next stage with the monitor farm.”

The two monitor farm projects for Forth and Clyde region aim to improve the profitability, productivity and sustainability of livestock producers within the Forth and Clyde catchments and will be the first ever monitor farms in the region.

The criteria for selection specify that farms need to be typical of livestock farms in the Forth and Clyde areas and assured members of the QMS Cattle and Sheep Scheme. Farming has to be the full-time profession of at least one of the family members and the farmers need to be keen to discuss their hopes and aspirations for their businesses with a group of neighbouring farmers. The appointed facilitators will work with their monitor farmer to show how the use of accurate baseline and benchmarking information can help to improve the profitability of the monitor farm and other farm businesses in the area. They will use a combination of practical demonstrations, the sharing of best practice and the discussion of up to date issues to drive change within the community group of attending farmers.

Chairman of NFU Scotland's Forth and Clyde Region Tom French said:

"Having never previously had a monitor farm project in the area, I am absolutely delighted that funding has been secured for not one, but two monitor farms in the Forth and Clyde Region. Farmers in this area have watched with interest the successful development of these projects in other parts and now they have the opportunity to both host and participate directly.
"Farmers are always keen to visit other farms and share ideas and information which might help the viability and ultimately the profitability within their own business.  That is particularly important in times such as these when thankfully output prices are rising but unfortunately input costs are soaring. Being left with a positive margin at the end of the day is increasingly difficult but by sharing experiences through the monitor farm programme, I believe we can help farmers see a positive benefit to their business.

"This is exciting news for farmers in the Forth and Clyde areas and I, for one, am looking forward to them getting off the ground."

Quality Meat Scotland has also launched the search for a new Pig Monitor Farm as the project moves into a new phase. The latest three-year phase will be based around a single monitor farm, but feature five regional groups to discuss lessons learned from the farm. Phase one of the project, which was based around two farms in Aberdeenshire and Angus, has come to the end of its three-year term.

Philip Sleigh, Chairman of the NFU Scotland Pigs Working Group said:

“I’m very positive about the project, it’s been an incredibly useful exercise over the past three years, and with the launch of the new phase there are still opportunities for more farmers and stockmen to come along to meetings to help broaden the expertise of the Scottish pig industry.

“The pig industry owes a debt of gratitude to the previous two monitor farmers for being brave enough to put their financial and physical performance figures out for wider industry to see. Everyone I’ve spoken to has had a positive experience from the meetings and have all come back with some way to improve their enterprise.

“What is particularly good is that the meetings have had staff from throughout the pig enterprises, rather than just farmers and managers, this is valuable as a learning experience for everyone, as staff may have more of a ‘hands on’ role within the unit and may have different concerns to the owners.

“Pig farmers in Scotland have a good reputation for working together for the good of the industry, and this project will help us go further down that road.” 

Notes to Editors

  • Orkney Monitor farmer Stephen Sandison farms with his wife, Lorraine, at Millburn, Harray.  The unit takes in 330 acres, 230 of which are owned and 100 acres on seasonal lets.  Spring barley is grown on 30 acres and the remainder is in grass). He runs 110 Simmental and Saler cross cows with Charolais bulls.  Replacements are homebred and calves are sold privately at weaning.  Stephen started farming in his own right in 2003.  A photograph of Stephen and Lorraine Sandison is available from
  • If you would like to submit a tender to facilitate one of the new monitor farms, please contact QMS Technical Projects Manager Peter Beattie at 07788 927 520 or If you would like to nominate a monitor farm for either the Forth or Clyde areas contact Peter Beattie or the NFUS Regional Manager, Christine Cuthbertson on 0131 472 4013
  • QMS will be selecting the facilitators for the next stage of the pig monitor farm project shortly and they will then be looking to identify a suitable farm to be the centre of the discussions.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 22/12

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