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'Return to the Hills'

Kirkton tupKirkton and Auchtertyre Farms are leading the 'Return to the Hills' by doing research to support, develop and demonstrate more productive, efficient and profitable hill farming.

A new advisory group

Including representatives from SRUC, NFUS, QMS, LLTNP, and the local farming community, will:

  • Provide advice on research and knowledge transfer activities being planned and undertaken on the farms
  • Provide guidance and support for further developing an ambitious programme of new activity in hill farming research
  • Act as direct links to the wider farming community

How do we intend to develop this resurgence at Kirkton?

SRUC with its partners the NFUS, QMS and LLTNP identified a need for action and set up a strategy group which recommended:

  • applied research on hill farming systems
  • especially in 'high' hill flocks and hill cattle
  • knowledge transfer and good communication with the farming community
  • training for the next generation of farmers and shepherds

What Scottish Government research are we currently undertaking?

  • Improved financial and physical performance - using within-breed and between-breed comparison flocks to explore genetic and management changes
  • Carbon improvements - identifying how changes in sheep management may influence net greenhouse gas outputs
  • Labour and on-farm automated data management - measuring on-farm costs,  economics, practicalities and risks
  • Sensors for managing stock - using the latest technologies to support hill livestock management
  • Uptake of new systems and technologies - testing how new ideas are taken up within the farming community
  • Ecosystem services - food production, biodiversity and carbon storage in hill systems
  • Greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration in hill grazing systems

What future research and demonstration work do we intend to do?

  • Using the hill ewe flock
    • Testing estimated breeding values (EBVs) in a high hill environment
    • Plant-induced photosensitisation - the role of genetics in the susceptibility of animals to bog asphodel toxicity (plochteach)
    • Impact on biodiversity of re-introducing sheep to the hills
  • Using hill cattle
    • Low cost winter feed
    • Impact on biodiversity of hill cattle grazing
  • Knowledge transfer and demonstration

Further Information

Download our "Return to the Hills" leaflet and diagram.

Dr Tony Waterhouse

Address: Easter Howgate, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0PE

Telephone: 01315354011


Dr Jane Atterton

Rural Policy Centre Manager and Policy Researcher

Address: Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Peter Wilson Building, Kings Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG.

Telephone: 0131 535 4256

Fax: 0131 535 4345


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