Stuart Lamont, Kinnabus Farm, Islay
Conservation & Biodiversity
Kinnabus Farm is a 2,000 ha extensive RSPB hill unit in the south west of Islay. As farm manager, one of Stuart's key roles is to manage the farms 360 ewes and 100 cows plus followers for conservation grazing for bird species, in particular chough, whilst making the farm as economically viable as possible.
Experiencing typical west coast high rainfall, as well as the extensive nature of the farm makes two key aspects challenging:
- Sustainable fluke control: Achieving effective control of liver fluke whilst trying to reduce flukicide use due to the impact on invertebrates (food for chough) and manage known resistance to Triclabendazole.
- Outwintering cattle: Maximise the use of hill grazing to reduce cattle winter feeding costs and keep the dung and nutrient cycle going year round for invertebrates whilst minimising poaching.
Liver Fluke Control - Test and Treat Approach
In 2022/23, as part of a project with Moredun, Stuart adopted a Test and Treat approach to fluke control with the objective that any reduction in flukicides and better timed applications with appropriate products would be better for the chough, flukicide resistance and the bottom line.
Replacement ewe lambs, wintered at home, where blood sampled for fluke anti-bodies (only effective in lambs in their first grazing season). This ‘sentinel’ test detects immature fluke and gave Stuart the confidence to hold off treating until a positive test came back in December. Later tests using Faecal Egg Counts (FEC) in ewes came back low with no treatment required
As such the ewe flocks total flukicide treatments for 2022/23 was a single Closantel dose. On a wet farm where several doses of Triclabendazole would traditionally have been administered before Christmas under a timed approach this is a very significant reduction and a big win.
So far in 2023/24, Stuart has used the Coproantigen ELISA test (faeces) with the last test in December coming back negative meaning he still hasn't treated ewes for fluke this year. A FEC will be taken at pregnancy scanning and the flock treated accordingly.
Adopting NoFence Collars for Conservation and Winter Grazing
One of the farm’s key aims is to graze grassy coastal areas throughout the year as much as possible to benefit the farm’s key target species, the chough, by maintaining a short grass sward to allow chough to feed on invertebrates. Whilst maintaining a fresh source of dung to provide a food source for invertebrates including dung beetle and their larvae which the chough feed on at certain times of the year. Adopting NoFence collars on part of the cow herd has allowed Stuart to consolidate grazing on these areas whilst mitigating the high cost of fencing such extensive and difficult to fence areas.
In addition, by being able to control the areas the cattle graze using ‘virtual paddocks’, Stuart has gained far greater control of hill grazing. Through block grazing in the autumn and winter, shown below, he has been able to delay and reduce winter feeding by making cattle graze in more remote areas of the hill. A further financial saving for the farm.
Another area of benefit has been in maintaining public access as this has allowed cattle to be grazed on key marsh fritillary butterfly habitat whilst keeping gates open on a road to neighbouring houses.
To hear more about climate resilience strategies please view our vlog series, which features Robert and his beans and rye, along with another two farms, and how they have developed their systems.
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