The future of the Lewis and Harris auction mart was secured in July, after a large turnout to an emergency meeting. Over 40 concerned local crofters turned up for the event, which was organised to address a shortage of volunteers for the local organising committee. 
Among those who attended was Ian Tolmie, managing director of Dingwall and Highland Marts, which runs the facility in partnership with the local volunteer committee, providing a vital service to the area’s crofters and farmers who without it would face having to transport their animals to the mainland for sale. 
Somewhat ‘freak’ weather conditions hit Scotland throughout June, with much of the country experiencing much lower rainfall than it would usually at the time of year. This meant that by July, many cereal crops were starting to see yield reductions and, if the rains stayed away, the looming possibility of crop failure was on the horizon. 
There were July celebrations aplenty for the Hackney Beltex team, shepherds Aled Gourcott and Holly Jones, when their Hackney Cancan won the overall sheep championship at the Great Yorkshire Show at the start of the month. 
As the dry weather continued, livestock farmers were feeling the effects of the hot temperatures and lack of rainfall just as much as their arable counterparts. 
With livestock outside, but the lack of rain both burning grass and hampering its growth, many were having to feed their stock with their hay supplies – something that they weren’t expecting to do and that would have ramifications as the year went on. 
Gordy Nicolson, who farms at Househill at Nairn, had been feeding cattle for a full three weeks at the middle of July. He explained: “We’re a very dry place, so we’ve been feeding our cattle hay. We’ve 80-head of cattle and they’re all getting fed now. After ten days you could see the grass going brown, and it’s obviously not getting any better now.”
Scotch beef producers faced with post-Brexit competition from countries where artificial hormones are used to boost cattle growth would either have to start using growth promotors themselves or go bust. That was one of the chilling warnings to emerge from an open debate about the future of Scotland’s food industry, where industry leaders met with producers and consumers to discuss their concerns about trading outwith the protection of the European Union. 
Held at UA’s Stirling mart centre, the panel featured Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers, NFUS’ president Andrew McCornick, Grahams Dairies Robert Graham and farmers’ market founder Jim Fairlie. 
One year on from the initial licence application by the Lynx UK Trust to reintroduce lynx to the British countryside, the National Sheep Association re-emphasised the risks granting such a licence would bring. NSA chairman Phil Stocker said: “If those raising the debate from the side of the lynx were more open to discussion and willing to hear counter points, they might understand the problems that reintroducing the wild cat would bring. UK farming is not set up to deal with this kind of predator, and we feel very strongly that its reintroduction would be hugely damaging. 
“This doesn’t just apply to livestock and the livelihoods of those who make their living on the land, but to all wildlife and ecosystems. The lynx has been extinct in the UK for more than 1000 years and the UK’s natural life would not be prepared for this level of new predator.”
July saw a cash injection for livestock farmers as payments started going out to those who applied for additional support to offset the additional costs of arranging the uplift and disposal of sheep and cattle that died during the bad weather between February and April. 
The £250,000 fund was administered to farmers by the National Fallen Stock Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Government, with support payments being made to both NFSCo members and non-members alike. In total, 2930 farmers benefited, with an average payment of £85.32. 
Agricultural organisations from Scotland, England and Wales united in a new initiative to see them work together to communicate the benefits of red meat in a balanced diet as part of a UK-wide meat and health programme. 
Quality Meat Scotland, Hybu Cig Cymru Meat Promotion Wales and the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Boards announced they’d cooperate in a jointly funded programme of activity to collectively raise consumer awareness of red meat’s positive nutritional content. 
The initiative was financed from part of a £2m fund of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects – an interim arrangement put in place while a long-term solution is sought on the thorny issue of levies being collected at points of slaughter in England, for animals which have been reared in Scotland or Wales. 
Hopes that the process of ‘gene editing’ might meet the approval of EU authorities suffered a setback as the European Court of Justice ruled that it still counts as genetic engineering. Scientists had been arguing that gene editing within an organism’s own genome should not be put under the same restriction as out-and-out genetic modification involving foreign DNA. 
However, the ECJ’s ruling meant that and foodstuffs developed using gene editing would need to be labelled as GM. 

Subsidies for crops grown to produce renewable energy were distorting the UK’s forage market and depriving farmers of affordable feed for their livestock, it was claimed. The diversion of land from growing fodder crops into the production of feedstock for anaerobic digesters had been a livestock industry sore point for some time, but this year’s weather extremes and the resultant disruption in fodder production had brought the matter to a head. 
As industry summits convened north and south of the Border to discuss what drought-struck farmers could do to keep their livestock adequately fed in the months ahead, the National Sheep Association made a pre-emptive statement suggesting that if the land currently being used to fuel AD plants was still growing crops for livestock feed, there would be far less concern over winter feed shortages. 
The NSA’s Phil Stocker said: “The risk of feed and bedding shortages is fast approaching and costs are rocketing, yet potential feed stock, cereals, maize and grass, as well as straw for biomass, is dedicated to energy production. This is why NSA is calling for a rethink around incentives for AD plants and large-scale biomass burners.
“We have already raised serious concerns over crops for energy being eligible for Basic Payment Scheme as well as Renewable Obligation Certificates and Feed in Tariffs, as this is a clear example of dual-funding and distorts the markets to the disadvantage of livestock farmers.”
August also started with sad news, as Sir Alex Fergusson, sheep farmer, Scottish Conservative MSP and former presiding officer at Holyrood, died aged 69, after a short illness. Tributes flooded in, led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson. 
The Highland cattle breed enjoyed unprecedented success at this year’s Royal Welsh Show, in Builth Wells, when more than 50 cattle were put in front of the judge, Rich Thomson, from Laggan, near Newtonmore. The well-filled classes allowed seven groups of three to be paraded.
Lynx were back in the news as well, as claims that there had been ‘unprecedented landowner approval’ for the plan to reintroduce lynx to the Kielder Forest on the Scottish/English border were shot down by the areas’ landowners. 
The Lynx UK Trust announced that landowners responsible for 700km2 of the proposed Eurasian Lynx habitat in the region had approved access for researchers during the planned trial reintroduction, but refused to name them. 
Local farmers rejected the claims outright. However, the Forestry Commission conceded that it had given ‘in-principle’ permission for the licensing body, Natural England, to take access to its land to monitor a trial if it was approved. 
Scotch lamb was back on the menu, as efforts to increase domestic consumption of the meat were given a £200,000 boost, the First Minister announced at Turriff Show. 
After confirming the funding for Quality Meat Scotland’s 2018 Scotch lamb promotional campaign, the First Minister stayed to BBQ Scotch lamb with young farmers and local butchers – and QMS chairman Jim McLaren. 
There was more good news as figures released by NFU Mutual appeared to suggest that rural crime in Scotland had declined, producing a 3.8% drop in the cost of claims to the rural insurer. 
However, despite this official drop in rural thefts, figures revealed the rise of another rural crime, that of livestock worrying incidents, which had experienced a sharp rise over the last year. 
Police Scotland welcomed the reduction of the cost in rural crime in Scotland, in contrast to the rest of the UK, where increased costs of £4.3m or 13.4% had been recorded, the highest levels recorded for four years.
The figures had taken into account the likes of farm vehicle theft, which in Scotland had seen a fall of 48%. The Mutual report also revealed that farmers were putting up earth banks, dry ditches, stockade fences and high-security single access points to fortify their farms against criminals who use 4x4 vehicles to commit crimes and evade police. 
ScotGov announced a National Basic Paymemt Scheme to speed financial support to Scottish farmers struggling with cash-flows after months of adverse weather. In essence, the scheme was the same as that created in 2017 to get around delays in EU farm payments caused by problems with ScotGov’s IT system, by offering interest free loans in advance. Provided they opted-in to the scheme, payments were expected to be made to eligible farmers in early October, equivalent of up to 90% of what they were due under the 2018 Basic Payment Scheme. 
Farmers were once again warned of the dangers of mixing slurry after toxic fumes killed several dairy cattle at a farm in Lanarkshire. 
The most recent incident – on an un-named farm – served as a potent reminder to the industry of the hazard of slurry fumes, especially in slatted sheds, and the necessity to take vital precautions when mixing it when cattle or people were present. 
A senior environmental consultant with SAC Consulting, Malcolm Sharp, said: “When a farmer empties or mixes their slurry, a bacterial breakdown occurs, releasing a number of slurry gases – methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide, with the latter being the most dangerous. 
“When mixed, these gases are released in large concentrations and it only takes one breath of hydrogen sulphide to kill somebody,” he said, adding that slurry gas was one of the biggest causes of casualties on farms – both human and animal. 
A six-figure call was one of the main highlights of Lanark’s opening Scottish National Texel in August, as 325 ram lambs averaged over £3400.
Trade peaked at 125,000gns for the noted Rhaeadr Best of the Best from Welsh breeder Myfyr Evans, who knocked down to Hugh and Alan Blackwood, Audhouseburn flock, Muirkirk, Ayrshire.
The month ended on a high, as RHASS announced that they were awarding a total of £42,000 over the next three years to allow RSABI to extend the support of its helpline – following a donation of £14,000 donated by it in 2017. CEO of RSABI, Nina Clancy said: “I am delighted and grateful that RHASS has again taken the important decision to support RSABI as this significant award means we are able to set up an outreach programme to connect with people that work in our sector that are isolated and lonely.”

September stared with industry professionals saying that Scotland’s hard-line response to bovine tuberculosis reactors in a cattle herd should not be mistaken for an actual disease crisis. 
Reacting to ‘sensationalist’ reporting of the latest TB testing figures, both the Scottish Government and NFU Scotland suggested that the recorded increase in the number of animals sent to slaughter was the product of normal variations in positive reactors to the ‘imperfect’ TB test – and the country’s ultra-cautious control policy. 
In the year to May 2018, 536 animals were slaughtered after reacting to the TB test. While that does constitute a tripling in the TB-related death toll in comparison to the previous year’s 181, officials stressed that it by no means equated to a tripling in actual confirmed cases. 
Dairy co-op, Arla Foods, proposed paying out its entire 2018 profit to farmer members who were struggling following the summer’s drought across Europe.
Arla said that, in light of it’s strong balance sheet, and the fact that farmers were facing a ‘tough financial situation’, it was in the firm’s best interest for this year’s net profit to be paid out to them. That annual profit was expect to be between £257.6m and £280.2m. 
Arla’s chairman, Jan Toft Norgaard, said: “As a farmer-owned dairy company, we care deeply about the livelihoods of our farmers and we recognise that this summer’s drought in Europe has been extraordinary.
“We are proposing that extraordinary measures be taken in this situation, and the board is satisfied with the positive development of the company’s balance sheet, which makes this proposal possible.”
A BBC documentary caused a serious industry row, broadcasting a ‘sensationalist’ and ‘misleading’ portrayal of the calf export trade. 
Distressing scenes were shown in the programme, suggesting they were representative of the treatment that Scottish dairy calves received whilst travelling to Northern Ireland, Ireland and continental Europe – but it was quickly pointed out that the footage was actually of Hungarian cattle being shipped onto boats in Romania, prompting an official complaint from NFUS to the BBC. 
NFUS president, Andrew McCornick said: “The scenes in the Egyptian slaughterhouse were wholly unacceptable but again, there was no evidence to indicate that these are Scottish cows. Even in the clips of the dairy calves in the market were not Scottish calves.
“The number of UK dairy bull calves exported every year makes up a very small proportion of dairy bull calves and the Scottish dairy industry is actively working to find alternative home markets,” he stressed. 
History was made at the Solway and Tyne Texel Breeders’ Club Show and Sale at Carlisle, when Team Boden, Sportsmans, became the first to sell two animals – of any breed – at six-figure prices.
Following on from the family’s 130,000gns sale last year at Lanark for the Texel lamb, Sportsmans A Star, was Sportsmans Batman, the popular pre-sale champion that made 100,000gns for Charlie and Steph Boden and their family of Josh, Rosie and Tom.
The lamb sold to Jeff Aiken, flock manager of the 60-ewe Procters flock that runs alongside a similarly numbered pedigree Beltex unit based at Moss House Farm, Wennington, Lancs.
Quality Meat Scotland announced Borders farmer Kate Rowell as their new chair. Mrs Rowell, who has been a member of the QMS board since 2015, would take over the role on October 1, when current chair Jim McLaren would step down after eight years at the helm. 
A qualified vet, she is a fifth generation farmer, running Hundleshope Farm on the Haystoun Estate, where the family have been tenants for 150 years. She runs the hill unit near Peebles with her husband Ed and their four children. 
Mrs Rowell said she was delighted and very much looking forward to taking up the role of chair. During the coming weeks, she would go on to spend time with Jim McLaren to ensure a smooth handover and transition. 
Livestock worrying certainly didn’t go away in 2018 and September saw questions asked over the punishment those found guilty of the crime were facing. This came after Nicholas Rowley was sentenced to just 80 hours community service for a sheep attack than cost a farmer £4100. 
Mr Rowley, of Rothesay, had allowed four of his dogs to kill and seriously injure 17 sheep on farmland near Inveraray. The injuries inflicted to the sheep were so severe that photographs taken afterwards were deemed unsuitable for publication. 
Mr Rowley previously pleaded guilty to this offence, at Lochgilphead Sheriff Court, with Sheriff Thomas Ward stating that he was in no position to pay a fine or any compensation to the farmer. Sheriff Ward expressed frustration that, under the current legislation, he was unable to impose a prison sentence, nor could he disqualify Mr Rowley from keeping dogs. Farmer, Brian Walker, of Carloonan Farm, Inveraray, said that the outcome of the case was disappointing, but not surprising. 
The end of the month brought a major upset to rural education in the West of Scotland as Scotland’s Rural College announced that the first phase of its ‘university transformation plan’ would see it leave its current centres in both Ayr and Dumfries. 
As part of its new plan to become Scotland’s rural university by 2022, SRUC was aiming to have faculties at three new locations across the country, following a phased withdrawal, over four years, from the existing campuses at Riverside in Ayr and the Crichton in Dumfries, with a potential £35m investment into a new Barony campus, in Dumfries and Galloway
MSP for Ayr, and former NFUS vice-president, John Scott expressed his worries about how these changes would effect students: “These moves break the promises that were made over how rural education would be set up. The Hannah family set up Auchincruive as a site for rural education over 100 years ago and when it was sold maybe a decade ago, assurances were given that the site would remain for this purpose. But as the SRUC moves away from Ayr, these assurances have proved worthless.” 
Bluetongue once again reared its ugly head, as the virus was detected in England in cattle imported from France. The disease was found by Animal and Plant Health Agency’s routine post-import testing of two animals brought to North Yorkshire from an assembly centre in Central France, where Bluetongue continues to be a problem.