Sheep farmers should be in a buoyant mood with old season prime hoggs at record levels and regularly hitting £150 per head in the live ring. With limited supplies until the new season crop appears, prices should remain firm for a good two or three months.

However, such increased returns never remain in individual farm bank accounts for long before being recycled into the local economy. Many of the hoggs coming onto the market now will have been bought off hill farms that are critical to their local communities.

So why the high price? Well, it appears you can never get too far from the basics of supply and demand, and there just is not the old season lamb crop on the ground to satisfy the market. Furthermore, we have Easter at the end of March, and Eid al-Fitr at the start of April, so there appears to be little let up in the number of people looking to dine out on lamb.

The beef world has also been riding high with buoyant sales for store and prime cattle and some cracking prices at the pedigree bull sales, albeit for reduced numbers. This week there was a new record average for Limousin bulls sold at Carlisle with 93% clearance on the back of an equally successful Stirling sale. Demand is also holding up for the native breeds particularly those that can be outwintered with 18,000gns achieved on two occasions for Luing bulls at Castle Douglas, and firm Highland cattle trade at Oban.

Could these improved ex-farm prices point to some green shoots of optimism for the livestock sector or are we all just desperate to see any sign of spring?

There should also be some positivity in the political world as for once a farmer has been installed as the Farming Minister, with Jim Fairlie’s appointment. Jim is no stranger to The Scottish Farmer pages and is never scared to voice his opinions, particularly if it helps bring about his beloved Scottish independence. His task in hand with farming is a lot more immediate, and perhaps grand plan constitutional visions could prove a distraction.

Nevertheless, it should help having someone with some practical experience in livestock farming helping make decisions, that is if the Scottish Government ever gets around to making decisions. A lot of hope is being pinned on Jim’s shoulders to get some clarity to future rules and give a date when the cash from the rural budget is to be returned to farmers.

For example, in a little over 12-months’ time farmers will all have to undertake bio-diversity audits to gain direct payments. It is details on issues like this we need Jim to work on. Fleshing out his leader’s speeches could be a start as the First Minister seemed to raise more questions than answers in his speech at the Union’s AGM in Glasgow.

Anyway, it looks like a decent payday this week whether you are a political or regular sheep farmer.