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Climate Change Focus Farm: Torr Farm

30 March 2024

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

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

Brother and sister team Ross and Lee Paton manage Torr Farm, a 389 ha organic dairy farm on the Solway coast about 20 miles west of Dumfries.

Torr Farm has 170 dairy cows, mainly Holstein-Fresian and Montbelliarde, along with a few Ayrshire and Norwegian Red. The business retains all of the offspring from the dairy herd, either for breeding or for finishing, with around 100 head of cattle being finished per year.

Of the total land area approximately 100 ha are woodland or rough grazing, approximately 80 ha are used for growing cereals, namely arable silage, spring barley and winter wheat, and the rest is sown to grass for grazing and silage.

What were the key findings from Torr?

Over the course of the initiative, Ross and Lee implemented a range of measures to benefit their farm business and reduce the farm carbon footprint. Examples include:

  • Improving energy use in the dairy – following an energy audit, Ross replaced his constant speed milk pump with a variable speed milk pump, saving around £700 and nearly 5 tonnes of CO2e annually.
  • Reduced age of calving - Ross identified 15 well grown heifer calves to calve at 24 months rather than 34 months. From entering the milking herd to the end of the reporting year, milk production was estimated to have increased by 50,450 litres, generating around £17,500.
  • Improved farm drainage and alleviation of compaction – Compaction on silage fields has been demonstrated to significantly reduce grass silage dry matter yields. Ross sub soiled 50 ha of grassland to alleviate soil compaction, potentially increasing the quantity of grass silage made by 38 tonnes. To purchase, this would cost around £950 and nearly 4.5 tonnes of CO2e.

Through these and other measures, Ross and Lee achieved a financial saving of around £37,000 and decreased the farm carbon footprint by 11% during the initiative.

Further benefits will be realised as some of the measures will take time to show on the farm. Note the decrease in the carbon footprint was smaller than expected due to the effects of the cold and wet weather experienced in 2012/2013.

Did Ross and Lee find the programme useful?

Ross said “Yes – being involved with the Farming for a Better Climate initiative has focused our minds on mitigating climate change and being aware of the wide range of practices which affect the farm carbon footprint – its not just about fuel and energy usage”.

SAC Consulting Facilitator for Torr, Gillian Reid said “Ross and Lee have taken on board a lot of the advice from specialists and the attending farmers and have seen the financial and carbon benefits from doing so. Although, due to the exceptionally wet weather the full potential benefits have not always been evident the programme has highlighted that improving resource efficiency will help businesses reduce their carbon footprint, adapt to more extreme weather and save money.”

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