For more than a quarter of a century, we have made a conscious effort to farm organically.
Not only do we have a mile of Loch Lomond’s shoreline to look after but we recognised that large quantities of nitrogen can be detrimental to the health of both the soil and grass and can also affect the health of the stock.
We have always adhered to the other two principles of organic farming – that is, keeping animals in natural, free-range conditions on a natural diet (grass) and minimising the use of antimicrobials and other medicines. In 1999, we decided to convert to full organic status and the farm is approved by the Scottish Organic Producers Association and Quality Meat Scotland’s farm Assurance Scheme.
The cows now graze on pastures that are free from any nitrogenous fertilisers, insecticides, herbicides or fungicides. Instead we use natural products like lime and farmyard slurry (manure) to increase the fertility of the soil. The pastures on Portnellan are permanent leys – that means they have been there for a very long time and we don’t plough them up. Since we went organic the clover has returned to the grassland – clover is a nitrogen-fixing plant and it means we don’t have to use artificial nitrogen in the form of fertiliser to make the grass grow. Where the clover is, the grass is long and lush, using the nitrogen that has been ‘fixed’ in the soil.
Organic principles rely on optimal animal management, from the adequate intake of colostrum (the first thick milk that the cow produces when she calves, which is full of nutrition and antibodies) to ensuring that they get the right amount of feed (usually just grass and silage) throughout their lives.
Our customers tell us that they buy our beef because it tastes brilliant and many people realise that the organic way of farming is sustainable and protects the environment for future.