Critchton Royal Farm is one of SRUC’s six research farms. The research farms provide research, education and knowledge transfer resources linked primarily to the SRUC’s applied research programme. Critchton Royal is the centre for dairy research and its main aim is to develop, implement and provide information from sustainable breeding and management systems for dairy cattle.
Crichton Royal Farm has an area of 252 hectares and rises from near sea level to about 75m. 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.
The farm has always been at the forefront of innovation and two contrasting systems are being examined. The cows on each system are of either high (Select) or moderate (Control) genetic merit, giving effectively four herds across the two systems.
One system relies upon home-grown feeds, where the quality and yields of the crops are influenced by local weather conditions. Cows on this system are housed in winter and grazed in the spring, summer and autumn months. The other system is a by-products system, which relies on bought-in feeds that are by-products or co-products of crops primarily grown for human consumption (for example, straw from a wheat crop, or sugar beet pulp from sugar production). It is a landless system, as far as this farm is concerned. The quality of the feeds used in this system are not influenced by local conditions, but by national and global weather patterns and climate. Cows are continuously housed.
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.