Farm meeting will explore new approach

SAC and the Soil Association have held an on-farm meeting at Cream O’ Galloway, Rainton Farm, Gatehouse of Fleet, to find out about David Finlay’s new approach to dairy farming and renewable energy.

The day provided the opportunity to view the new dairy complex, built to accommodate this new system.

Wilma and David Finlay run Rainton Farm – a 340-hectare mixed organic dairy beef and sheep enterprise. “We are not only developing a new steading, but introducing a new to us crossbreed, a dual purpose animal (British Friesian x Montbelliard x SRB). This should increase life expectancy to eight years, while heifers will calve down at two years old instead of three.

“We will give calves unrestricted access to their dams until the dam calves again. We’re planning to milk the cows once a day and won’t dry them off, but will stop milking them when yield is less than five litres. We will allow natural weaning without stress at around 11 months, gradually removing calves and placing them in separate peer groups.

“We anticipate that calf growth rates will increase by 40% over the first eight months. Weight and conformation should improve significantly, allowing us to reduce slaughter age by six months. The reduced numbers of older finishing and breeding cattle will allow us to increase numbers from 100 to 140 without significantly increasing total stocking rates. We also plan to reduce purchased feed by 75% by reducing milk yield and making better use of grass.

“We’re introducing an anaerobic digestor into the new slurry handling and storage system. This will remove methane, ammonia and urea from the slurry, making it a less polluting and more effective fertiliser. This will allow us better to target nutrient demands and minimise leaching losses. The AD unit will also generate well in excess of all the farm’s electricity requirements. An initial carbon budget suggests an overall 40% saving in GHG emissions.”