MEASURING TO MANAGE BRINGS SUCCESS FOR SCOTTISH BORDERS FARMING COUPLE
Growing quality forage and utilising it effectively has helped Charley and Andrea Walker win the inaugural Farmers Weekly Grassland Manager of the Year award in 2019 and is integral to their drive towards sustainable and environmentally responsible red meat production.
Farming in the Scottish Borders, and inspired by their experiences in New Zealand, the couple have developed a profitable low cost approach that eliminates the need for winter housing and minimises bought-in feeds in their organic beef and sheep enterprises.
The tenanted 254ha unit supports 640 Easycare ewes and 110 Welsh Black x Angus suckler cows. The introduction of rotational grazing five years ago has boosted profitability by increasing livestock production to 405kg liveweight/ha – a 50% uplift – and routine reseeding of silage leys helps maintain forage quality. Out-wintering on deferred grazing has been another important factor in increasing overall farming efficiency and sustainability, whilst the inclusion of herbal leys in the grazing platform and a tentative introduction of holistic grazing are indicative of a strong commitment to improving soil health.
Helen Mathieu of Germinal GB, who sponsor the Grassland Manager of the Year award, said that a commitment to measuring and monitoring grass growth, as a basis for more effective management, helped separate the Walkers from other sheep and beef producers.
“Charley and Andrea practice rotational grazing and maintain a strong handle on pasture production levels to optimise utilisation,” she says. “This willingness and ability to routinely measure grass performance was a clear differentiating factor.
“We’re proud to sponsor the Grassland Manager of the Year award and congratulate Charley and Andrea for their achievements. Our main purpose in sponsoring this award is to champion the benefits of outstanding grassland management and this is best done by recognising those who are setting the standard and provide a great example for others to follow.”
Charley and Andrea Walker are also passionate about the environment and care deeply about the image of modern agriculture with the wider public. So, whilst a profitable farming enterprise is their primary goal, they are committed to the promotion of wildlife and conservation and engage wholeheartedly in public outreach and education.