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Climate Change Focus Farm: Glenkilrie, Perthshire

30 March 2024

This article originally appeared on the Farming For A Better Climate website

Glenkilrie was one of our first four Climate Change Focus Farms and participated in the project from 2010 to 2013.

Glenkilrie is owned by David Houstoun and covers some 1000 ha at the bottom of Glenshee in Perthshire.

It is an upland beef and sheep farm, having 140 suckler cows and 1000 ewes, which are split into two flocks. David grows some forage rape plus grass, which is then ensiled or made into big bales. In addition to the farm business, Glenkilrie is also the location of a well established bed and breakfast business.

What were the key findings from Glenkilrie?

Under the five key action areas, David considered a range of measures that fitted in with his farming system. Examples of measures undertaken at Glenkilrie include:

  • Silage analysis – David knew that the feed quality of his silage was reasonably good, but testing silage quality was needed to accurately put together a ration. The high quality of silage reduced the need for purchased feed, achieving financial savings of around £3,000 and a reduction of nearly 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per year.
  • Reduced age of calving - David identified a small batch of heifers suited to calve at 24 months rather than 36 months. Pleased with the result, David intends to expand this across the majority of the herd. From the initial batch calved at 24 months, it is estimated that David has saved around £7,000 and 19.9 tonnes of CO2e.
  • Reduced use of straw - Bedding cattle on straw is expensive; due to the geography of the farm, straw was purchased anywhere from 15 to 25 miles away from the main steading. David has trialled bedding a group of cattle on recycled wood fines, reducing straw use. The livestock have taken to it and it has proved to be more cost effective than straw. This measure has already saved David nearly £700 and 2.74 tonnes of CO2e.

Through these and other measures, David achieved a financial saving of around £11,000 and a 10% decrease in the farm carbon footprint.

Although the decrease in the carbon footprint was smaller than expected due to the effects of the cold and wet weather experienced in 2012/2013, its likely that further benfits will be realised, as benefits are seen from the longer term measures.

Did David find the programme useful?

David said “Yes; this programme has made me think a bit more about where we can make efficiency savings. Quite a number of little changes have been made over the last three years and once added together they make quite a saving in both financial and environmental terms. I will definitely continue with changes made so far which have proven beneficial to my business whilst also looking for other areas where improvements can be made.”

SAC Consulting Farm Facilitator for Glenkilrie, Peter Lindsay said “Having worked with David for a number of years before this project I thought it was going to be difficult to find areas in which improvements could be made. However this project has shown that all businesses, including those seen as technically efficient, have room for improvement. Saving carbon may not be at the top of a farmers agenda at present but this project has shown that measures taken to reduce the carbon footprint of a business often lead to a financial benefit.”

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