Despite some bitterly cold weather, sheep and cattle farmers flocked to Highland Sheep, staged at the Sutherland family's exemplary Sibmister farm, just a few miles away from Scotland's north coast and the Pentland Firth in Caithness.

Believed to be the biggest on-farm event in the area, the National Sheep Association's biennial expo not only attracted in excess of 2000 visitors from all corners of Scotland and further afield, but also a huge number of school children.

And, as the first major farming event of the year for many, a real feel good factor prevailed throughout as farmers were able to catch up with friends old and new over a refreshment or three. It's fair to say the icecream van did not have the best of days!

They were nevertheless, brought back down to earth when NFU Scotland president, Andrew McCornick, hit out at the on-going lack of clarity on the way forward for the farming sector from both the UK and the Scottish government in the light of changing consumer demands, climate change and a fast approaching Brexit.

"Apparently we are in a climate change emergency, but how can they call it an emergency when you look back over the past 100 years and our predecessors have come through wars, depressions, weather and disease events," said Mr McCornick in his opening ceremony speech.

"As NFUS president, I'm working with politicians all the time and every single one of them in both parliaments is promising us jam tomorrow, but if they're not careful, there is going to be no bread to put that jam on."

Instead, he urged flockmasters to stand up and fight for their industry, if they want to continue farming as they are.

"We cannot be allowing ourselves to be sucked into this polarisation, farming is being pushed into. There are polarised views in Westminster and Scotland but we need to focus on what we want regardless of the politics so we can move forward and get some form of consensus.

"Politicians can't keep throwing rules and regulations at us. We can definitely be part of the solution on climate change, but they've got to give us the deals to do that," added Mr McCornick.

Scott Donaldson, president of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland and joint managing director of Harrison and Hetherington, Carlisle, was equally concerned for the future of the sheep industry.

"I don't want to talk the job down, but we have to be honest with ourselves and I am nervous for after the end of October if we end up with a no-deal Brexit when 50% of lambs sold through the live market are exported," he said.

"Without exports and ethnic demand, we are exposed to the supermarkets which could, inject a stable trade into the live market, but it's unlikely."

Instead, Mr Donaldson encouraged producers to paint a more positive picture of their industry and the benefits of consuming home-produced lamb compared to sheep meat from New Zealand which takes 60 days to be shipped to the UK.

And, he urged flockmasters to consider selling their lambs through the live ring where there is a demand for all types, shapes and weights of lambs, instead of trading deadweight through the abattoirs where end prices are based on hitting the R4L spec and carcase weights of 21kg.

"Farmers are continually being told to work closer with the processors, but it they won't work with you, maybe you should walk away from them and sell your sheep through the live ring. If the industry want's efficiency, the auction market has got it, when you think there is a demand for all types and weights of lambs, producers are paid on the day and with EID, there is nothing to stop you finding out how well your lambs have killed out. It's up to you to take control of your business," said Mr Donaldson.

Looking outwith the EU, Mike Gooding, a director of the marketing company Farmers Fresh which exports 85% of it's weekly 30,000 lamb kill, to the continent, warned sourcing new markets would take time.

"We might have the highest quality standards for producing lamb in the world, but it doesn't give you the right to sell anywhere in the world or give you anymore money for it.

"I have been on two trade missions in the past few months and it is fascinating to see what is driving different markets to make their buying decisions.

"Demand in Japan has been driven by young female consumers who see lamb as a healthy, low-fat product which is almost the complete opposite to what a UK and domestic consumer."

Hence, he encouraged producers to talk up their industry and promote the nutritional benefits of grass-fed lamb and it's increased Omega 3 and 6 levels.

"You have to get on the front foot and take control of your product. Get the mechanisms in place to return more value for your product by influencing the supply chain," said Mr Gooding.