A Scottish farmer who adapted her system to allow all cattle and sheep to be fed on a 100% forage-based diet has paid off, with the farm recently awarded its Pasture for Life status.
Fifth generation farmer Claire Pollock from Ardross Farm, near Fife, says her feeding regime is very simple - grass in the summertime and silage when the grass has stopped growing.
“We use a mix of strip and paddock grazing in a rotational system; however, it is something we should do more of," she explains.
"Some of our fields are not the easiest to divide, but we have started using Kiwitech fencing and are upgrading our water system to allow this to be achieved.”
As grass is an instrumental part to the system at Ardross, there is a strong focus on trying to produce high quality silage to fatten cattle and keep them over winter.
The plentiful amount of grass in the arable rotation not only benefits the cattle enterprise by providing higher quality silage but improves the arable operation on the heavier land.
Situated near the east coast in Fife, Ardross is fortunate of some sandy land which Claire states is ideal for out wintering cattle.
“We utilise our sandy land and grow forage crops including kale, rape and turnips to allow us to keep around two thirds of the cattle outwintered.”
Originally dairy farmers, the Pollock family transitioned into beef 25 years ago by crossing the cows to a beef bull.
Ten years later, Claire introduced the Stabiliser breed by putting a Stabiliser bull over existing cows and purchasing heifers through the Stabiliser Cattle Company.
Maternal traits are important within the 125 cows, which are all homebred. Any surplus heifers along with bullocks are fattened on farm, and therefore a key focus for Claire along with maternal traits is sound feet, temperament, and the ability to fatten from grass by 24 to 30 months.
Claire, alongside her sister Nikki, sells beef through their diversification businesses, Ardross Farm Shop, which means a steady supply all year round is required.
“We calve three times a year to maintain a steady supply of finished cattle for our farm shop. Our Pasture for Life certification means all cattle are finished in the same way, regardless of the time of year and that is off grass, silage or forage crops.
“Prior to the pandemic, the farm shop required two 360kg deadweight cattle beasts each week with demand increasing in the holiday months, especially Christmas.
"Since March 2020 we have seen demand rocket and are increasing both our beef herd and sheep flock to keep up with demand.”
Claire notes that an important aspect to the success of their business is working alongside key industry partners.
Ms Pollock commented: “Our vet, Ainslie Smith of Eden Vets, is a critical part of our team. We have moved from using them as an emergency only service to utilising their knowledge and expertise in health planning guidance.
"We sit down regularly with Ainslie and are constantly looking at ways to improve our animals and the end product we sell to customers.”