While all classes of beef and sheep continue to rise on the year, so too are costs of production, with the three F's – feed, fuel and fertiliser – all on the up.

Reduced global supplies of basic feeds have seen soya prices soar by as much as £100 per tonne on the year; rapemeal has risen £80-£90 and wheat and barley values increase £55-£60 and £40/t respectively. Even maize is quoted as having risen £40 since the last harvest, according to those in the know.

Add to that fertiliser costs up £40-£50 across the board since October, and it has been a costly few months for livestock producers who failed to secure winter feed contracts.

Agricultural input prices are closely tied to oil values and while such prices plummeted during the first lockdown in March 2020, they have slowly but steadily recovered to those of January 2020 levels as a result of increased economic activity in Asia and tighter stocks.

Figures from AHDB point to rising farm fuel prices too with average red diesel values in January of 54.96p per litre up more than 2p per litre on December 2020 levels, but still some 9p per litre below those of January 2020.

It is however, feed values that are hurting farmers most with the pig sector in particular feeling the pinch.

"It's soya that drives the entire feed market and prices have risen more this year than in all the time I have been working in the trade," Robbie Duncan of Quest Farm Feeds, Kilmarnock, told The Scottish Farmer.

"There has also been less rapemeal grown in the UK due to various chemicals being banned to control disease, and the wheat crop fell from its usual 16m tonnes to nearer 9m, so there has been a real shortage of basic feeds in this country and on the global market."

However, while he predicted a costly few four or five months, on a more positive note, he said bumper harvests of soya are expected in America and there has been a significant increase in the UK wheat and barley acreage sown, which will help to reduce next year's feed bills.

But while input costs are rising, so too are ex-farm values, with Tuesday's Global Dairy Trade price index rising a massive 15% – a record high percentage increase on the same sale two weeks previous – on the back of a perceived global dairy shortage.

Butter values rose 13.7%, whole milk powder increased 21% and even skimmed milk powder improved by 3.5% on the last sale mid February. Cheddar cheese rose 1.3%

Beef and sheep values also improved this week, with the latest deadweight cattle prices in Scotland for the week ending February 26, showing steers, heifers and young bulls rising 2.1p, 1.1p and 4.3p per dwkg at 385p, 387p and 361p, respectively.

Prices are also up south of the Border across the three sectors on the back of reduced supplies available, and the trend looks set to continue.

Sheep prices are well up this week too, with that £3 per live kg average, very much on the near horizon when Blackfaces are achieving 270p per kg plus.