Crichton Royal Farm has an area of 252 ha. and rises from near sea level to about 75m.
The land was bought by the Crichton Royal psychiatric hospital between 1884 and 1894, to provide food for the hospital and work for its patients. The farm has always been at the forefront of innovation: a milking machine was installed in 1907 and, in 1925, a silo was built for silage, well before these were common in Scotland.
In 1975 the ownership of the farm was transferred from Dumfries and Galloway Health Board to the Scottish Office (now Scottish Government) and SRUC took over the tenancy. In addition to the Crichton Royal Farm, SRUC also rents some neighbouring land.
The Acrehead Dairy Unit was built in 1979 and, in 2002, the Crichton Dairy Unit was upgraded when all the SRUC dairy research was consolidated at Dumfries. Crichton is also an innovation site for LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming).
The main aim of the Dairy Research Centre is to develop, implement and provide information from sustainable breeding and management systems for dairy cattle. Critical objectives include finding ways to improve the health and welfare of UK dairy herds and measuring different systems' effects on the environment.
Two contrasting systems are examined over 5-year periods, with the current system comparison comparing a Standard Energy diet (roughly 1.5 tonnes of concentrates per cow per annum) with a High Energy diet (roughly 5.5 tonnes of concentrates per cow per annum). The cows on each system are of either high (Select) or moderate (Control) genetic merit, giving effectively four herds of approximately 50 cows each across the two systems:
- Control cows – Standard Energy diet
- Select cows – Standard Energy diet
- Control cows – High Energy diet
- Select Cows – High Energy diet
Further details of the diets and current performance are available at:
Langhill G x E Study
All the data collected from the systems experiment are stored on the central project database, where it can be accessed by many scientists and students. Information learned from the work is regularly imparted to groups of farmers, vets, interested industry parties and government stakeholders, as well as being published in academic journals and presented at conferences.