Final Monitor Farm Meeting to Review Success of Project; PROJECT

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Byline: Aranda Rahbarkouhi? 0191 201 6136 ?

EXPERTS who have worked with the Northumberland livestock Monitor Farm will be reviewing the difference the three-year project has made as it comes to a conclusion next month.

From soil quality to breed selection, Donkin Rigg Farm near Scots Gap has experienced a huge shake-up on the advice of specialists aiming to make it as efficient and productive as possible.

Other livestock farmers across the region who have followed the Monitor Farm's progress have also enjoyed benefits by taking these fresh approaches away to try at home.

The final meeting, featuring an update from Simon Bainbridge of-Donkin Farm, Morpeth, plus experts who have worked on the project, takes place on July 3 at Donkin Rigg. The day will feature a complete review of The Cow Enterprise, Sheep Enterprise, Renewables, Environmentals and Business Aspects. It's been three years of change for Monitor Farmer Bainbridge on a personal level too.

During the project, he married, now has two children and travelled to New Zealand to find out what has turned their sheep farmers into global world leaders.

Bainbridge said: "So many things have changed since the Monitor Farm project started in 2010 - both for me and Donkin Rigg. This has been a fantastic opportunity personally and for the farm.

"We've increased the stock, we have different cattle and sheep breeds, and we've changed to all spring calving. It's been a real journey but at the end of the day, I'm running a more efficient and more profitable farm, and other farmers who have attended the regular Monitor Farm events have been able to take away ideas for improvements on their own land."

Bainbridge's parents Ivan and Elizabeth started farming in 1968 with 12 sheep and two cows. They rented Donkin Rigg in 1991, now a 1,600-acre organic beef and sheep farm. Donkin Rigg, and the Bainbridge's new addition of Rothley East Shields Farm, was chosen as the Monitor Farm in 2010 as a good example of a typical Northumberland livestock farm, which has to deal with the same issues of weather, energy use, soil and markets as its neighbours.

Bainbridge's enthusiasm and willingness to try new ideas were also fundamental in the selection process.

Originally funded to the tune of PS195,000 by the English Farming and Food Partnerships - which has now split into two groups - the project was founded by XL Vets and North Northumberland Agricultural Training.

The steering group brought together progressive farmers from across the county including Ian Craigs from Tritlington Hall Farm near Morpeth, James Herdman of Edlingham Newton, Neil Howie from North Lyham Farm near Chatton, Alan Jackson, from Rugely Farm near Alnwick, Michael Jordan of Tughall Grange near Beadnell, and Angus Nellis of Thistleyhaugh Farm near Weldon Bridge.

Bainbridge said: "The steering group has been absolutely invaluable; between them there are hundreds of years of farming experience, and I have really benefitted from their knowledge, advice and help.

"They have been supportive, argumentative, critical and complimentary, and I personally would like that thank each and every one because without them giving up their time and being ambassadors for this project, the Northumberland Monitor Farm and I would certainly not be where we are today.

"I know I have these connections for life but I am however certainly going to miss being part of this exclusive group."

Monitor farm co-facilitator John Macfarlane, a director at Alnorthumbria Vets, has been part of the project since the start. …