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Case Studies > Creating sustainable farming units

Bowhill Estate


Case Study Creating sustainable farming units Bowhill Estate www.helpingithappen.co.uk
Case Study Creating sustainable farming units Farming today faces multiple challenges. Lower gate prices and changing subsidy regimes means famers must be increasingly innovative and agile if they are to make a decent return from their farms. At Buccleuch Estates they firmly believe that, if farming is to have a sustainable future, they must work closely with farming tenants to maximise their chances of success.

In many cases, historic farm units are not well suited to modern farming, and the difference in returns between top performing and median farms can make or break a rural business. Buccleuch have been working with a number of farming tenants – using a process they call Whole Estate Development Planning – to re-structure farms in order to build competitive, sustainable, resilient units.

Whole Estate Development Planning is a holistic approach to land management, developed by Buccleuch as a framework to help make informed choices about future land use. This process is enabling Buccleuch to engage constructively with forward-looking farm tenants to discuss how they can work together in different ways to secure a better future. The catalyst for this may be the retirement of a farming tenant, or the sale of a neighbouring unit, and in some cases may involve the provision of additional land to increase scale and efficiency. This has already occurred on a number of farms, and Buccleuch are actively working with tenant famers across all of their land holdings to help the farmers of the future. In other cases, a more innovative and collaborative approach is required.

At Drinkstone Farm on the Bowhill Estate in the Scottish Borders, Buccleuch has worked closely with John Park and his family to enable them to succeed John’s parents’ tenancy.

In 2014 John’s parent decided to retire whilst John wished to continue farming the 1,254 acre unit with his wife and two children. The farm was running 1,215 breeding ewes along with 70 suckler cows. The sheep included high performance pedigree Suffolk and Texel flocks; however a shortfall of capital meant John was unable to fully stock the farm. Working with the assistance of SAC consulting, John developed a comprehensive business plan, and based on this Buccleuch and the Park family were able to enter into partnership.

John provided 50 percent of the capital alongside his own knowledge and expertise for the day to day running of the farm. Buccleuch provided the other half of the capital together with a farm tenancy for five years and management expertise in agriculture, finance and health & safety. John said: “I used to be a tenant of the Estate; now we are working in partnership. Instead of working towards differing aims, we now work to a common objective: to make Drinkstone an increasingly successful and profitable business.”

Increased capital has allowed the farm to be stocked at 920 ewes with the aim to increase to 1,120 ewes. Keeping investment between the Estate and John has minimised third party involvement to ensure stability within the business to the benefit of both parties. The partnership has resulted in a stronger, more stable and sustainable business, while achieving operational excellence allowing a win-win situation. Running an efficient business will ensure John and his family achieve financial gains thereby delivering the joint vision of buying out the Estate share of capital over the five-year period.
Scottish Land & Estates
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