The stupidity of Brexit is certainly kicking in with a vengeance.

All the talk about oven-ready deals by Boris Johnson are sure becoming uncooked! The loss of Eastern European labour is now being severely felt in almost every sector of society, but in particular the food production sector – I’m afraid it is only going to get much worse.

Take the haulage driver shortage of 100,000, for example. What good are 5000 temporary visas going to do to alleviate that problem? Why would anyone come to the UK for three months work and then have to return to their own country?

The same applies to the 5500 needed for the poultry sector, plus abattoirs, pig, dairy, not to mention the many other food-related industries requiring staff. The 60% food sufficiency could soon drop dramatically and what will happen to the supermarket shelves then?

I expect Johnson to go with his begging bowl worldwide to import his oven-ready food, no matter what it does to the climate that we are all supposed to be protecting! I do not know when we have ever had so many incompetent politicians in power for such a long time.

They are just operating like a flock of headless chickens. Boris crowed about what a good job he had done with Covid-19, but now we are only fifth in the world in vaccination terms for our population. Maybe the 12-year-olds should have been vaccinated before going back to school and in my opinion it should be mandatory in many sectors of the population!

Last month, I touched on the statement from the Bank of England that inflation was likely to stay at around 2%. If you are in agriculture you could be looking at adding a zero – ie 20%, which is probably not enough for some costs on our outputs.

Fertiliser has doubled in some cases and may be the worst affected. I accept that most farmgate prices have gone up, but I am afraid that costs have increased faster, meaning that margins will not even stay the same, but could be less.

As a result, it is taking much more capital to run virtually every farming business, no matter which sector you are in. So, how is the BofE going to control inflation?

Historically, it would raise interest rates. If it does that, it will destroy the economic recovery from both Brexit and Covid-19. I guess the Bank of England is in a Catch22 situation – it is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t!

Following last month’s article quoting the drop in livestock numbers of 1million since 1974, I have had some requests about the sheep numbers, so with help from George Milne, I can give you some figures.

Scotland peaked at around 10m sheep in the late 1980s. At foot-and-mouth time in 2001, we had 3.7m breeding ewes, which is now down to 2.6m. If I am way off with those figures, no doubt someone will tell me, but there is no doubt that both cattle and sheep numbers in Scotland are in a continual decline – and at a faster pace than some people realise!

Recently, I have been told of seven dairy herds in my county that are going off, or will be by the end of the year and there may be others unknown to me. So, the decline continues.

What is the reason? There are fewer young people willing to calf and milk cows, or lamb sheep in all weathers mainly because, as Jeremy Clarkson said, the returns are miserable compared to other sectors of society, considering the work involved.

There is a similarity now to what happened in the North-east when the oil boom started. Farms up in that area lost staff to the much more lucrative oil sector. This time it is going to be right across our industry.

I can remember the late Donald Malcolm, of what’s now Malcolm Logistics, saying to me: “Jim, if anyone applies to me for a job from a farm, I never hesitate to employ them, simply because their work ethic is always first class!”

Having said that, I am still hopeful that there are enough young people keen to work in agriculture to carry on what the generations before them have created. It may not always be financially rewarding, but there is nothing more satisfying than seeing farms of any kind being well-farmed – who knows, maybe profitability will return?

There are a few changes in the beef sector as of October 1. Although not located in Scotland, Lynden Foods, who have an abattoir in Northumberland, become fully owned by ABP.

Also, at the beginning of October, supermarket Asda, under its new owners, will only be sourcing beef from UK, for all stores. Historically, around 11% of its beef came from Southern Ireland.

Its main supplier is ABP, which is based in Eire, but has distribution around the world. I am assuming they will have to find another home for the 11% that is no longer going to Asda from Eire, where, in the last six months of this year, trading is 14% down, which is no surprise with dairy cows increasing by more than 30% since the ending of quotas.

As far as tiny wee Scotland is concerned – we kill about a quarter of what Ireland does per week – we are still on a declining production strategy, with no sign of that changing, which is maybe a reason for store cattle values to rise!

At the first calf sale at UA Stirling, on September 27, prices were up 24p/kg, or 57p up on 2019. That is more than £100 per head up on the year and £250 on 2019 for a 450kg store beast. On the day, there were plenty at £3/kg, mostly U-grade cattle.

Even if we take a 500kg-plus steer through to finish, it is going to have total costs per day between £2 and £3 for 100 days or more. That means the end beef price on a deadweight basis is going to have to be nearer £5 than £4/kg to leave any margin.

What is driving store cattle values to highs ? One thing, is a shortage of numbers. Anyone who is unaware of the reduction of suckler cows must be living in cloud cuckoo land. Many of us have been on about it for years.

When I started beef finishing in 1972, my first 32 store cattle cost £42/head, average weight 450kg and four months later they went off to live market to average £87/head. There seemed to be large numbers of cattle around and also more markets then.

Two aspects have changed since then – fewer cattle and ever reducing margins. Owing to the supermarket control over dairy farmers, there will be an increase in the so-called beef from the dairy herd, which will consist mainly of Aberdeen-Angus and British Blue – at least that is what I see going through the store rings in ever increasing numbers.

I have to admit it takes a little adjusting to see an Angus female out of a Holstein cow, compared to a native beef beast or even to a continental that has been bred for the EUROP grading system. If that were to change, from shape to taste and succulence, then maybe there will be a place for Angus out of dairy cows!

Taking the six summer months of April to September inclusive, the average rainfall for the past 30 years has been 16.8 inches, but this summer we had 12.75 inches. Only 1996 beats it, at 11 inches. The wettest was 2002 at 25 inches and on an annual basis, 1996 was the second driest in 30 years at 27.75 inches.

There is no doubt, speaking to farming friends across Scotland and particularly in this part of North Lanarkshire, it has to have been one of the best summers I can remember. April was a little cold but dry, with only 0.25 inches of rain, but from then on it has been nearly perfect, especially for this all grass farm.

Now I am aware that some of my friends in the South-west have been short of grass, especially on gravelly light land, and there may be fodder issues. However, harvest seems to have been good with plenty of straw and in most cases an abundance of excellent silage.

It smells so good on some feed passages, it not only tempts the livestock to eat, but even me!