Andrew Booth

Occupation

Farmer.

Address

Savock Farm, Aberdeenshire.

Cropping

Winter wheat, spring barley, OSR, other crops.

About the farmer

Andrew is a 4th generation farmer, based in Aberdeenshire.

He studied agriculture and farm business management at Aberdeen University before travelling to England, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.
Andrew is passionate about professional development and embeds the ethos within his business. He takes on seasonal students, providing them with a wealth of experiences from which they can develop and learn. He encourages his employed team to broaden their horizons with secondments in other countries.

Andrew’s business is very much a collaborative effort with the whole team involved in key projects driving business growth. Decisions are based on data and analysis, and benchmarking underpins much of the decision making within his arable enterprise.

Andrew is proud of the Savock Farm brand.

About the farm

Andrew’s farm is 10 minutes north of Aberdeen. Situated near the coast, it is based on heavy land. Alongside his own farm, Andrew rents and contract farms, extending his acreage.

Andrew’s had livestock on the farm for many years and added value through his own butchery and farm shop. Winter 2019-2020 is the first without livestock on the farm. Declining margins was one of a number of factors that led to the decision to move to a purely arable enterprise. Another was the pressure livestock put on his team over winter and the lack of work-life balance.

In 2017 an anaerobic digester was built on his own farm. Through the AD, Andrew retains many of the benefits of having a mixed enterprise by using the digestate to improve soils. Growing crops for anaerobic digestion have broadened Andrew’s rotation, extending the harvest.

The rented and contract farms are quite variable and, as a result, Andrew deploys a variety of establishment approaches. While he is looking to move towards direct drilling, he understands he needs to develop soil before that is possible.

Farming philosophy

Andrew is customer focused. Having previously run a farm shop onsite, he understands customers have different needs and wants. It is a sentiment he has carried through to his contract business. He says anyone in business must engage with their customers and understand their motivations and desires.

Cultivation and drilling approach

Andrew’s team sowed the last 40/50 acres on the 2nd of October 2020. Generally, he does not like drilling in October, but conditions have been good this autumn.

The farms - his own and those that he rents/contract farms - are quite variable, so Andrew is trialling different drilling/establishment approaches in a move to direct drilling. He notes that there are places where he needs to get soils in the right condition before he makes that transition, so the plough and harrow are still his ‘get of jail card’.

Rotation

Andrew adopts a number of different rotations depending on the field and its soil type.

Some areas are in long-term grass for grazing or anaerobic digestion. Others have rotation centered around the production of gluten-free oats (2 years of grass followed by 2 years of oats).

A more ‘traditional-type’ rotation would be winter wheat / spring barley / rye/ split 50% OSR and 50% clover or one-year grass mix for AD. OSR is grown on a 5/10-year rotation.

Biggest agronomic challenges

Andrew’s biggest agronomic challenge is grass weeds - predominantly annual meadow grass.

Andrew suspects that the dry spring impacted the efficacy of pre-ems, which led to stubbles harbouring more weeds. This year he wants to understand whether those populations are stealing yield or whether their impact is more superficial.

What do they most value about Real Results?

Andrew likes the field scale trials. He didn’t fully appreciate that the Real Results trials would be statistically more than field trials and is delighted that they ‘carry a bit more weight’. Plot trials are obviously important, he says, but feels field-scale trials are necessary.