January

The Scottish Farmer:

THESE SHEEP began to to stir as the winter sun streamed through the trees onto the frosty ground near Sorn, Ayrshire    Photograph Rob Haining Ref:RH090119022

FESTIVE over-indulgence can often be replaced by a time of abstinence, whether that be from alcohol or junk food – but 2019 began with the agricultural industry fighting the new trend of ‘Veganuary’, which encouraged the public to give up meat for a month. Farmers noted with alarm that the ‘lifestyle’ choice of veganism had been opportunistically hitched to concerns over climate change, with the UK’s largely grass-based red meat sector lumped together with global statistics on intensive meat production.

Rugby legend Doddie Weir led the Scots contingent in the New Year’s honours list, receiving an OBE for his services to rugby, Motor Neurone Disease research and the community in the Scottish Borders. Mr Weir was diagnosed with MND in 2017 and subsequently founded the ‘My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’ which has already raised over £1 million.

US trophy hunter Larysa Switlyk, who had caused outrage in the autumn of 2018 by being pictured next to a Blackface tup which she claimed to have shot during a trip to Scotland, was formally  reported to prosecutors over alleged gun offences, under section 11a of the Firearms Act 1968, which refers to authorised lending and possession of firearms for hunting.

The Scottish Farmer:

DRAFF from the local Ardnamurchan Distillery served up for a group of spring calving blue grey cows on Ardnamurchan estate Ref:EC0101194397

Targeted support payments to Scotland’s hill farmers were to reduce by 20% in 2019, and then be slashed to just 40% of their current level in 2020, as a result of the EU forcibly winding up the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme. The Scottish Government insisted that it had made the best of the circumstances, by delaying and reducing the cuts as much as the EU would allow.

A five-month campaign to draw public attention to livestock attacks by dogs was launched by the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime. Setting it apart from previous campaigns, SPARC promised to use more ‘powerful and emotive’ language via a series of nationwide events, campaign videos and social media interactions, to hammer home to dog owners the emotional and financial impacts such attacks have on the farming community.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was met with criticism on the final day of the Oxford Farming Conference when she urged parliament to consider a tax on meat. Ms Lucas admitted that her comments would not prove popular, but stood firm by her assertion that a meat tax would make an impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced by livestock.

But of all the comments at Oxford that struck a chord, the description of Westminster as a ‘fish tank full of lunatics’ probably topped the bill. That came from an investment specialist who had nothing to do with agriculture, but who hit the nail on the head when he said Brexit had made the UK government and politicians in general an ‘international embarrassment’.

A New Zealand government consultation on building a free trade deal with the UK after Brexit worried British sheep farmers. National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Any new UK/NZ trade deal will cover all products, industries and services and it is crucial to recognise that for sheepmeat it is an entirely one way trade. We may be relatively equivalent in terms of flock size and productivity but what is not equivalent at all is the market place with the UK having a human population of some 66m compared to NZ’s 4.8m.”

The Scottish Farmer:

TV PRESENTER Piers Morgan slammed popular street bakers, Greggs, live on air, after their launch of a vegan sausage roll. He tasted one on Good Morning Britain, then mimicked throwing up

Dairy farming’s enemies were numerous, and increasingly powerful – but instead of presenting a united face to the world, the sector regularly shot itself in the foot by obsessing over its ‘rancorous internal divisions’. Speaking at the Semex Dairy Conference, dairy sector analyst Chris Walkland suggested that everyone’s energy would be much better employed dealing with those external threats.

‘Mountains’ of plastic waste were building up on UK farms, following a Chinese ban on imports for recycling. Up til recently, China had imported 40% of the UK’s farm plastic waste, but had shifted to sourcing cleaner non-farming waste. Compounding the problem, Scotland had just followed England and Wales by legislating its own farm plastics burning ban.

The Scottish Farmer:

Leslie Shepherd, of Cowiehillock, Echt, won the Royal Northern Agricultural Society’s annual turnip competition with his crop of Kenmore

ScotGov confirmed its intention to bring forward a separate Scottish Agriculture Bill, rather than have a Scottish schedule added to the UK Agricultural Bill under construction in Westminster. Cabinet secretary, Fergus Ewing stated that adding Scotland to Defra’s legislation would be ‘inappropriate, as substantive issues over powers remain unresolved’.

A scientific paper gathering together research into glyphosate highlighted ‘the many failings of the current pesticide regulatory system’ according to organic sector watchdogs, the Soil Association. The study questioned why the US Environmental Protection Agency concluded that glyphosate was safe, whilst the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s work suggested that it could cause cancer ­ the main conclusion being that the American all-clear was derived from the pesticide industry’s own studies.

In a poll carried out by The Scottish Farmer to identify the best outcome to the political impasse, our readers gave strong support to a second public vote on Brexit. Given the choice of then Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal; a new deal yet to be negotiated; exit from the European Union without a formal deal; a second referendum; or a General Election, more than 53% of respondents opted for a second Brexit referendum. However, the second most popular option was exit from the EU with ‘no deal’, which was backed by just over 30% of the TSF readership.

The Scottish Farmer:

BUTE shepherd, Sandy McKirdy, was 2019’s recipient of the Stalwart Award, presented annually by NFU Scotland’s Argyll and the Islands region, presented to him by regional chairman John Dickson and well-known hill farmer, Sybil MacPherson

Graham’s The Family Dairy’s proposal to develop Airthrey Kerse with a state-of-the-art milk processing plant and extensive housing and civic amenities was brought back from the dead when the Court of Session overturned the Scottish Government’s decision to refuse permission for the project. “For over 10 years, Stirling Council has failed to meet the Scottish Government’s housing requirements,” noted managing director Robert Graha, whose long-running proposal was to create 600 new homes, alongside what he described as ‘the biggest ever single investment in the Scottish dairy sector’s infrastructure’.

Archaeologists admitted that what had been hailed as a newly-identified 4000-year-old stone circle on a farm in the parish of Leochel-Cushnie, Aberdeenshire, was in fact a replica that was just a couple of decades old. When the initial find had been publicised in the media, the former owners of the farm contacted the investigating team to say that they had put up the stones in the mid-1990s.

The Scottish Farmer:

Ploughing on a chilly day at Colliston Farm, Glenfarg, with a Fendt 720 and four furrow KV plough Ref:EC191194434

Calls for mobile abattoirs to be considered as a solution to the shortage of slaughter facilities in Scotland’s remote rural areas were answered, as ScotGov announced funding for a research project into the viability and sustainability of such a travelling facility. ‘Keep Scotland the Brand’ campaign founder Ruth Watson, commented: “It is good to see the Scottish Government taking the issue of abattoir provision seriously. Local abattoir provision is important on several levels – animal welfare is paramount; local communities need local jobs; and there is the price premium which comes with meat carrying the Farm Assured ‘Scotch’ brand, only achievable on livestock born, reared, and slaughtered in Scotland."

Taken to task by industry leaders over those threatened cuts to LFASS payments, Fergus Ewing pledged to find ‘other routes’ by which hill farming support could continue at 100% of its current level: “As I have previously said, any additional funding that could arise from Lord Bew’s review will be prioritised for this purpose,” he added, in reference to the ongoing Westminster review into the disputed distribution of EU ‘convergence’ money.

February

The Scottish Farmer:

SRUC students Li Ningyi and Wang Lingyi met with two Midlothian piglets to herald in the Chinese New Year on February 5 ­- ­officially the Year of the Pig.

Farmers and crofters were feeling frustrated following errors in the administration of the Beef Efficiency Scheme, having received letters warning that they were in breach its requirement to enter the weights of their cattle into the ScotEID database, despite them having already done so. Scottish Beef Association chair, Neil McCorkindale, said: “These recent errors just flag up what is already a complex scheme – one that our members have voiced their disappointment with from the start. There was a real opportunity here to improve both efficiency in the beef sector and to address climate change targets, but it threw so many complications at farmers that many left the scheme.”

The Scottish Farmer:

THREE CANDIDATES contested NFU Scotland’s two vice-presidential positions at agm in Glasgow. The sitting vice-president, Martin Kennedy; livestock committee chair, Charlie Adam; and combinable crops committee chair, Ian Sands, were forward for the two jobs – and it was Mr Kennedy and Mr Adam that emerged victorious.

Scottish farmers’ market stalwart Tom Mitchell called for fresh thinking and ideas to help stave off the declining sales threatening some markets. “When we started twenty years ago, it seemed the sun shone every Saturday and people turned out but we have had to deal with some pretty bad weather in recent years and we maybe should be looking at more indoor premises,” he suggested. He also thought the rise of farm shops had hit farmers’ markets, with several now carrying a wide range of produce.

There was a ‘huge groundswell of support’ for a ban on non-stun slaughter, vets claimed, as they teamed up with the RSPCA in a joint effort to get the UK Government to repeal the legal exemption that permits animals to be ‘religiously’ slaughtered without pre-stunning. The exemption had been used on over 120 million animals over 2017/18, said the British Veterinary Association – which averaged more than three animals slaughtered unstunned every second.

The Scottish Farmer:

ONE OF the Highland cattle at Cladich, Dalmally, stands proud above Loch Awe, ahead of the Bull Sales

Gamekeepers’ warned that the satellite tagging of wildlife was unconstrained by official oversight – a ‘wild west’ territory generating dubious data that was regularly deployed by conservationist bodies to score points in the wider political battle over land management and ownership. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association spoke out after the discovery that a tagged Hen Harrier, widely publicised as having disappearing ‘suspiciously’ in Angus the previous May, on the basis of a tag monitored by a conservation charity, had been re-sighted in Perthshire, without any announcement to the media.

The Scottish Farmer:

AHEAD of the Six Nations Tournament, Scottish Rugby announced Scotch Beef as its new ‘Healthy Eating’ sponsor. Pictured launching the tie-up at Murrayfield were butcher John Saunderson, Chris Dean, chef Neil Forbes, Adam Hastings, and farmer Niall Jeffrey

There was sheep industry welcome for a special Home Office concession allowing overseas shearers to enter the UK during a time-limited window to assist local contractors in removing the wool of millions of sheep during the coming summer. This very specific group of non-visa nationals, particularly coming from Australia and New Zealand, were to be allowed in between April 1 and June 30, to stay for a three month maximum period.

United States farmers made it plain that they wanted the UK to accept growth hormone-fed beef and genetically modified crops as part of any post-Brexit trade deal. Asked by the US Trade Representative to set their red lines for UK trade negotiations, lobby groups for key US industries highlighted Brexit as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to establish transatlantic standards that would act as a ‘bastion’ against the EU’s precautionary approach to food, medicine and chemical approvals.

The Scottish Farmer:

DOGGIE DIVERSITY on display as Joe, Jack, Tweed and Sid headed out on the morning stock check at Glen Quaich, Perthshire (Pic: Anna Mackinnon)

Undercover investigations in a Polish abattoir revealed the illegal slaughter of unfit and diseased cattle, under fraudulent veterinary certification that allowed the resultant meat to enter the human food chain. The case sparked Europe-wide fears that many hundreds of casualty cows may have been processed in this manner, and gone out through export networks blurring their final destination. In 2017, UK Revenue and Customs data sugested that the UK imported some £64.4m worth of Polish beef.

The Scottish Farmer:

River worker Robert Kellie urged Scottish Natural Heritage officials to come see first hand what he described as widespread beaver damage on the River Ericht at Blairgowrie, warning that the species was now at ‘saturation point’

A ‘new realism’ over the protection of Scotland’s raven population was warmly welcomed by livestock farmers, as Scottish Natural Heritage issued evidence supporting the continued use of control licences to prevent damage to livestock, particularly lambs. SNH’s head of wildlife management Robbie Kernahan, said: “This research shows that the number of ravens killed under licence won’t put the Scottish population at risk. However, we will continue to monitor so we can adjust licence numbers when we need to.”

Dairy giant Müller shocked the sector by knocking 1.25pence per litre off the price for fresh milk on offer at the farmgate. The company confirmed that the milk price paid to farmers who satisfied its Direct Premium conditions would be 26.75ppl, which industry observers described as its ‘lowest ever’ March price.

The Scottish Farmer:

SAOS’ Next Generation Award was to not one, but two recipients. At the agricultural co-operation and collaboration body’s annual conference, it was announced that the judging panel had found it impossible to choose between Peter Duthie and John Taylor of Scottish Pig Producers

After some 20 years of service to the National Sheep Association and the Scottish sheep industry, George Milne stepped down from his role as regional development officer, amid rumours of a schism amongst the organisation’s leadership. Former chairman, Hamish Waugh, bemoaned the loss: “It was with sorrow and a deep sense of foreboding that I learnt that George Milne had finally succumbed to the ‘bully boy’ tactics of a small handful of people who appear to be using the Scottish region of the NSA to further themselves at the expense of the greater sheep industry.”

Pests and predation took precedence over politics at the NFU Scotland conference, where Brexit-weary delegates were much more concerned about the ‘out of control‘ rewilding going on in Scotland’s countryside, and the negative impacts of beavers, badgers and sea eagles.

In a similar vein, at a public meeting in Stornoway Town Hall, Lewis and Harris crofters expressed deep concern that a local goose management scheme was to come to an end, creating ‘a bigger threat to the industry than Brexit’.

The Scottish Farmer:

BACK WHEN everyone thought Brexit was just month away, Defra minister Michael Gove and Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing shared a stage in Edinburgh – and politely agreed to disagree on several key points arising from the UK’s exit from Europe

MARCH

The Scottish Farmer:

CELEBRATORY CUDDLES for William Moir after securing champion and top priced Limousin at the Aberdeen Spring Show with Knock Nelson, which sold for 8000gns, and reserve with Knock Nickleback, which sold for the next top price of 6500gns for Albert and George Howie Ref:EC270219037

Dairy Crest, the British owners of both the Davidstow cheese and Country Life butter brands, was bought out by Canadian dairy giant Saputo, which was reportedly keen to claim a foothold in the European market as a basis for further expansion on this side of the Atlantic.

The Duke of Buccleuch stepped down as chairman of the Buccleuch shortly after his 65th birthday, to be succeeded as executive chairman by Benny Higgins, former chief executive officer of Tesco Bank, who has been a non-executive Buccleuch director for the last six years, while the Duke’s elder son, the Earl of Dalkeith, became deputy chairman.

The Scottish Farmer:

More than 200 sheep died after the lorry they were being transported in overturned on the A76 between Sanquhar and Thornhill

The discovery of a dead female beaver on a wildlife reserve in Tayside – apparently killed by an infected gunshot wound in its chest – re-ignited the conservationist campaign for the introduction of legal protection of the species. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham responded by announcing that the Eurasian beaver would be added to the list of species protected under Scottish law, from May 1.

Machinery manufacturer JCB was granted a preliminary injunction by a French court against Manitou, requiring the rival company to stop producing telehandlers featuring a patented JCB productivity device. The ruling at the Court of the First Instance in Paris meant that Manitou could no onger manufacture, sell or lease telescopic handlers equipped with the patented ‘Longitudinal Load Moment Control’ (LLMC) system. However, Manitou hit back, saying that JCB had misrepresented the court’s decision, and that it had ‘hno impact on the business of Manitou BF, its dealers or equipment users’​.

The Scottish Farmer:

TEAM JACKSON were crowned Scottish Curling Champions. Sophie Jackson; Naomi Brown, Milli Smith and Sophie Sinclair, all Scottish university attendees and all from farming backgrounds, were sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers

Europe’s ban on neonicotinoid pesticides should not be transferred into the UK’s post-Brexit legislation, Scottish Conservative MP Colin Clark declared this month. The north-east politician insisted that there had been ‘unintended consequences’ from the EU’s crackdown on neonicotinoid seed treatments – which was introduced in an attempt to protect bees and butterflies – and the UK should grasp the opportunity to ‘set its own policy’.

DEFRA did an abrupt u-turn on promised changes to the sheep carcase splitting rules, citing fears that the move – announced in November 2018 – could stop the UK getting the ‘third country’ listing for sheepmeat exports that it would need in the event of a no-deal or a delay to the Brexit negotiations. The UK sheep industry expressed frustration that Brexit’s promise of liberation from EU rules had actually achieved the opposite.

The Church of Scotland came under fierce criticism after the environmental chaplain for the church’s ‘Eco-Congregation’, Reverend David Coleman, revealed that he would be giving up meat during the 40-day lent period and encouraged church members to do likewise. The Moderator of the General Assembly of the C o S, Rt Rev Susan Brown, intervened: “Scottish farmers work hard to give us some of the highest quality meat and dairy produce in the world,” she said, adding that she would not be giving up meat for lent.

The Scottish Farmer:

SCOTCH lamb was rolled out on the menu in schools across Tayside, following a successful pilot introduced by NFU Scotland’s vice-president Martin Kennedy and local councillor Mike Williamson, which demonstrated that the vast majority of schoolkids enjoyed a variety of lamb dishes

A public meeting in Inveraray, held to discuss the proposed reintroduction of wild Lynx to Scotland’s countryside was disrupted by angry scenes as opponents of the plan were ejected by the Lynx UK Trust’s organiser Paul O’Donoghue.

The Scottish Farmer:

AS LAMBING got underway​, Kirsty Paterson's nine-week-old Border Collie pup Gem watched over one of the day-old Texel cross lambs at Golland Farm, Kinross Ref:EC120319174

A ‘no-deal’ Brexit was looking much more likely, as PM Theresa May’s unpopular proposals faced multiple defeats in the House of Commons  - prompting the Government to reveal detail of the trade tariffs that would apply to foodstuffs if no formal agreement could be reached. NFU Scotland president Andrew Mr McCornick warned that those tariffs – ­letting many imported foods into the UK market unhindered, while outgoing UK foods faced high barriers ­– would be ‘catastrophic’ for Scottish farming.

‘Significant operational changes’ were implemented by the ANM Group – including the departure of executive director John Gregor, who left the business after 35 years’ service at Thainstone.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE Connachan Salver was presented posthumously to famed Blackface sheep breeder, Mike Scott. The annual award, presented by the Blackface Sheep Breeders Association for services to the Blackface breed, was accepted by Mike’s widow, Caroline and children, Alexander and Camilla, at the breed society’ agm in Stirling, where it was presented by Mary McCall-Smith, of Connachan and Davie Shedden, president of the BSBA.

Europe’s largest dairy co-operative, Arla Foods, pledged to make its entire operation ‘carbon net zero’ by 2050. Setting out its plan to mitigate the ‘unavoidable emissions’ from keeping cows for milk production with improvements elsewhere in its supply chain, the huge co-op – owned by 10,300 farmers across the UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, and Belgium – insisted that technological advances would allow its business to continue to grow without environmental impact.

The Scottish Farmer:

Strawberry season began in Scotland, as concern grew that there would be labour shortages in the horticulture sector as the year went on. The UK was in the habit of bringing in between 60,000 and 70,000 workers from overseas to fill seasonal demand for fruit and vegetable pickers and processors – but its recently launched ‘seasonal agricultural workers’ pilot scheme had been capped at just 2500

Glyphosate suffered a legal blow, as it was deemed carcinogenic by a United States jury, that found in favour of a cancer sufferer’s damages claim against its manufacturer. The outcome was disputed by German chemicals group Bayer, which acquired the Roundup brand as part of its $66 billion takeover of Monsanto in 2018 – and which saw its share value drop by almost 12% following the ruling.

Concentrated land ownership in some parts of Scotland had led to ‘abuse of power’, according to a report published by the Scottish Land Commission, which said that putting the lion’s share of social, economic and decision-making muscle into very few hands was hampering economic development and causing serious and long-term harm to affected communities. The SLC called for ‘systemic change’, including the introduction of a public interest test and approval mechanism for significant land transfers.

The Scottish Farmer:

THESE handsome fellows were enjoying some sun in between blustery showers at Forter Farm, Glenisla (Photo: Marlyn McInnes)

Chlorothalonil, active ingredient of the popular fungicide Bravo, fell foul of the European Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, which voted against renewing its market approval, raising particular concern about Scotland’s barley crop, which has no other reliable defence against the disease ramularia. NFUS combinable crops committee chairman, Ian Sands, said: “This is a massive set-back for the cereal growing sector with huge potential to affect the whole of the Scottish food and drink industry.”

Beef producers were alerted to a ‘significant’ lengthening of the withdrawal period for the widely used pour-on Closamectin. Overnight, the product, used in cattle to control worms and fluke, moved from a 28-day withdrawal period, to requiring 58 days before an animal could enter the food chain.

As lambing hit its peak across the country, dog owners wee urged to act responsibly and keep their dogs under control whilst on farmland. No dog walker should leave home without both poo bags and a lead, said NFUS president Andrew McCornick: “Attacks on livestock happen all too often in Scotland and we are really pleading with the public to keep their dogs on a lead, avoid fields with livestock if possible and be responsible when walking on farmland.”

APRIL

The Scottish Farmer:

ENJOYING THEIR evening grazing in the sunset at Portnellan Farm on the ‘bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’, a herd of Aberdeen Angus cross cattle pictured by farmer Chris Scott-Park

AN AGREEMENT was reached to allow a farming couple to stay on a portion of their farm until retirement, despite it having been sold by their former landlord, Buccleuch Estates. The case of David and Alison Telfer, of Cleuchfoot Farm, near Langholm, had become a flashpoint for the tensions between tenants and big estates, when Buccleuch moved to bring their occupation of the holding to an end earlier than their original planned retirement date, despite a verbal assurance from the previous Duke of Buccleuch. Fortunately, the Telfers, Tenant Farming Commissioner Bob McIntosh and Buccleuch managed to negotiate a solution.

The Scottish Farmer:

BLUE SKIES and warm weather at the start of April provided the ideal opportunity to get land work up to date. Andrew Wilson is pictured here sowing oats at Langmuirhead, Lenzie

Brexit was officially postponed until October 31 – and the farming industry urged Westminster to use the time to avoid a ‘no deal’ outcome. National Sheep Association chairman, Bryan Griffiths, said: “What we can’t afford is to find ourselves six months down the line in the same position, risking a ‘no deal’ again. We’re relying on our politicians now to come up with a viable solution which moves this process forward – and offers farmers the security they need.”

Pro-vegan campaigners urged NHS Scotland to make its ‘Best Start’ scheme for pregnant women and parents of young children vegan-friendly, by allowing its milk vouchers to be spent on non-dairy alternatives. Farmers slammed the move, and praised the NHS for sensibly favouring natural healthy Scottish milk over ‘imported, expensive, fortified plant juice’.

A report warned of a ‘widespread crash’ in pollinating insect numbers, with an average decline of 25% across all bees and hoverflies since 1980. The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology used data collected by volunteers across a 33-year period to monitor the populations of over 350 species of pollinators – and concluded that the ‘intensification’ of farming and pesticides was a major driver behind the declines it had found - particularly the introduction of neonicotinoids in 2007.

The Scottish Farmer:

Agri-tech boffins predicted that raspberry growers could be using commercial robot harvesters on their farms within five to ten years. Dr Michael Stoelen from the University of Plymouth, said they had built a prototype robotic arm which could pick a raspberry in 12 seconds without damaging it – and believed that once the robot was commercialised, it would do the job in half that time

The Scottish Farmer:

A project to raise the profile of beef from Galloway cattle produced a first for the breed – a ‘gourmet’ burger made from quality assured Real Galloway Beef available in Aldi stores across Scotland, presented here by chef Fraser Cameron

The Scottish Farmer:

TEN-YEAR-OLD Innes MacKay from Millpark, Oban, was pleased with these Blackie triplets from one of his very own ewes

The European Parliament’s agriculture committee  moved to clamp down on the use of meat terms on vegetarian and vegan food labels, approving a ban on vegetable-based products using names usually associated with meat, meaning that vegan ‘sausages’, tofu ‘steaks’ and soya ‘escalopes’ could all be consigned to the bin.

Scotland’s first generation of ‘starter’ farmers were nearing the end of their tenure on Forestry Commission land – and asking the question ‘what next?’ Writing in a blog for NFU Scotland, Next Generation group vice chairman Zander Hughes warned that with no continuation steps available, the entire starter farm process might just have been a waste of time, best not repeated.

Agrichemical giant Bayer said that it stood behind the safety of glyphosate and would continue to vigorously defend its glyphosate-based products, despite their political unpopularity. To that end, it made 107 Bayer-owned glyphosate safety study reports openly available, in the hope of encouraging a ‘science-based discussion’ with regulators, as well as with consumers concerned about the safety of the substance.

Castle Douglas farmer David Finlay was announced as ‘Farmer of the Year’ at the CEVA Animal Welfare Awards. Mr Finlay, from Rainton Farm, picked up the accolade in recognition of his dedication to enhancing the health and welfare of his dairy herd – well-known for producing Cream O’ Galloway ice cream.

The Scottish Farmer:

A Golden Eagle and new-born lamb were the dual victims of a sea eagle attack in Oban, at Clachan Farm, Kilninver. Farmer Colin MacFadyen reported: “That morning I had helped a ewe deliver twins and looked above me to see a sea eagle sparring with two golden eagles – but didn’t think much of it at the time. A few hours later, I returned to check on the new lambs and was taken aback to see this giant sea eagle – with a wing span of around two metres – sitting picking at the fresh carcase of one of the lambs. On closer inspection, I could see a golden eagle lying dead about two feet away and it was obvious from the talon marks around its head that the other bird had killed it,” he said.

‘Extreme’ thawing of the permafrost around the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, dug into a mountain on Norway’s Spitsbergen Island, was damaging its viability as a ‘doomsday’ store of food crop genetics, scientists warned. The vault contains nearly a million seed samples which could be used to regrow crops if a planetary emergency was to threaten humanity’s food supply. Its site, 800 miles from the North Pole, was chosen for its chilly stability. Unfortunately, as the Norwegian Centre for Climate Services revealed, the area was now on the frontline of climate change, experiencing rapid warming.

Scottish consumers were being made to feel guilty about eating red meat – while almost all of those surveyed (92%) were eating red meat, almost half (49%) said they were now trying to eat less of it, due to worries over animal welfare (26%) and farming’s environmental impact (19%). Coming out fighting on behalf of Scottish farmers, Quality Meat Scotland, said that whatever charges might be laid at the door of meat producers elsewhere in the world, this country’s livestock sector was built on both excellent animal welfare and a grazing-based system with a positive environmental impact.

The Scottish Farmer:

A dry spring saw devastating wildfires affecting the Scottish countryside , with major conflagrations in Ayrshire, Lochaber, Dunbartonshire and Moray requiring concerted efforts by the Scottish Fire Service, alongside estate and Forestry Commission workers, to bring them under control

Highland councillors were accused of ignoring both the crofting regulator and their own policy by giving planning permission to a development using productive in-bye croft land in Gairloch for housing. Councillor Biz Campbell, who herself claimed to have ‘active crofting interests’, said the Crofting Commission needed to ‘get real.’ “Crofts were given to servicemen when they came home from war, but nowadays they can’t make a living out of them, they’re too small,” said Councillor Campbell. “We’ve got to live with the times. Tourism is what’s sustainable now.”

Years may have passed since the UK government decided not to give Scottish farmers the European Union’s full £190 million ‘convergence’ uplift – but as Lord Bew began his review of the Intra-UK Allocation of Domestic Farm Funding, NFU Scotland stressed that the reason why the EU made that money available in the first place still stood. Scottish farmers’ average area payment was only 45% of the EU average, and Lord Bew should try to put that right.

New Deer Agricultural Association announced a clampdown on equine flu by making it mandatory that all horses, ponies and donkeys entering its showground must arrive with proof that they have been vaccinated within the last year. However, some regular competitors at the north-east show accused the committee of ‘overreacting’ to the flu threat, and jeopardising the future of the show.

English farmers and land managers reacted with outrage to the abrupt revocation of their general licence to control pest species of birds, under legal pressure from ‘Wild Justice’ – a campaign group set up by TV presenter Chris Packham. Scottish Natural Heritage told The Scottish Farmer that its English equivalent’s move had come as a surprise, and that there were no plans to change Scotland’s general licences, which operate separately under Scotland’s different legal system.

MAY

IT MIGHT have taken half a decade, but the Scottish Government’s much-maligned agricultural IT system was finally declared ‘totally fixed,’ by rural economy cabinet Fergus Ewing. Defending the slow progress towards a solution, Mr Ewing stressed that the computer needed to process more than 1000 million pieces of data generated by the EU’s area-based payment system ­- but he now believed that specialists had ‘broken the back of the difficulties’.

The Scottish Farmer:

Potato producer James Logan and dairy farmer Tracey Roan were part of a new campaign 'championing' the benefits of being a member of NFU Scotland. Despite the maelstrom of political and societal change buffeting the Scottish agricultural industry, thousands of traditional family farmers were still not union members.

The Scottish Farmer:

A SEA eagle was spotted carrying a new-born lamb close to Duart Castle, on the Isle of Mull, coincidentally in the middle of a local Scottish Natural Heritage trial looking at ways of minimising the impact of sea eagles on local farms, including placing fish near their nests

A new report from the Committee on Climate Change stated that Scotland has greater potential to remove emissions from its economy than the UK overall, and can ‘credibly’ adopt the more ambitious target of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 – that is, the country will absorb at least as much atmospheric carbon as it releases.

The Scottish Farmer:

IN MAY, The Young Farmer of The Year competition finalists met at Jimmy Warnock’s Sandilands Farm, near Lanark, to discuss the next stage in the competition ­- preparing a business plan for submission ahead of the Royal Highland Show

A major row erupted after 62 animals had their passports withdrawn by the British Cattle Movement Service – most of them high value pedigree Limousins either from the Ballinloan herd or their offspring. In spring 2018, doubt had been cast on the parentage of the 24,000gns Ballinloan Jaegerbomb, but after initially being suspended, that bull’s parentage was amended with a different dam and put back in the herd book. In light of the BCMS move, that earlier ‘all-clear’ statement looked like being a can of worms for all involved.

The Scottish Farmer:

THOUSANDS of farmers turned up for the triennial Scotgrass event at the Crichton Farm, near Dumfries, where £100m-worth of grassland machinery was put through its paces in ideal harvesting conditions

Paul Tinson left his role as development manager for RSABI. During almost seven years of service with the rural charity, Paul and his team generated significant funds, founded the RSABI Great Glen Challenge and established a Supporter Scheme to generate regular income from corporate organisations, businesses and individuals. RSABI chief executive Nina Clancy commented: “We wish to note our thanks to Paul for his contribution to raising the profile of RSABI and raising funds to support people in need of assistance within Scottish agriculture. We wish Paul well for the future and with his new undertaking, a course of study at Edinburgh University.”

Blackface sheep breeders announced their intention to boycott Northern Ireland’s premier agricultural event, the Balmoral Show - and instead go on a private bus trip of their own. The stance was taken in protest at the show’s move to a four day format in 2017. The breeders said that making the hill animals stand in a pen in the heat for five days was too long.

UK vets called for an end to exports of meat produced by non-stun slaughter, arguing that any continued use of ‘religious’ slaughter methods should be strictly confined to the quantity needed to serve the UK’s own minority consumers.

NFU Mutual issued a justification for the £2m-plus remuneration package given to its chief executive Lindsay Sinclair, despite the UK’s leading rural insurance company posting a quarter of a billion pound plus loss: “We need the right person in place to lead NFU Mutual and we believe people should be paid the market rate and that includes the full range of remuneration including a benefits package. We need to offer that market rate to be able to attract the right people.”

Work towards new Scottish legislation on livestock attacks by dogs moved a step further, with the completion of a public consultation on the subject, which received a total of 1053 responses. But the proposed tightening of the law requiring dog-owners to keep their pets leashed came under unexpected attack from the Kennel Club, which said that it might prevent people from releasing leashed dogs when threatened by cattle. “The tone and content of the proposals ignores this reality and focuses far too much on increasing penalties after sheep worrying has happened, rather than applying proven good practice to ensure the health and safety of people, sheep and dogs,” said Kennel Club secretary, Caroline Kisko.

The Scottish Farmer:

Oban Livestock Centre installed a new community defibrillator, honouring a local NFUS commitment following the death of a well-known local farmer at a livestock sale in Dalmally

The Scottish Farmer:

Cows and calves crossing the flooded beach and machair at Northton, on Harris (Picture: Nikki Hay)

Westminster’s own Migration Advisory Committee recommended that vets be reinstated to the Shortage Occupation List, which they were removed from back in 2011, long before the possibility of Brexit came along to disrupt the veterinary labour force. Professions on the shortage list are prioritised for visas required to live and work in the UK, and employers wishing to hire professionals on the list are not required to complete the Resident Labour Market Test, meaning they would not have to advertise vacancies locally before hiring from overseas.

The Scottish Farmer:

NOT A lot of room to spare as the Fraser Woodrow Agri Services' forage team – a harvester plus three tractor/trailer combos – disembarked from the Tarbert to Portavadie ferry in Argyll  (Photo: Jeremy Parker)

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The ‘Hands Free Hectare’ project, created to demonstrate the use of robotics and autonomous systems in farming, has been given extra funding to upscale. When it started in 2016, the aim was to be the first in the world to grow, tend and harvest a hectare of crop without any human operators in the driving seat -­ the new incarnation will be a three-year-long project growing three different combinable crops across 35 ha

Buccleuch Estates announced plans to sell a substantial landholding in the Scottish Borders, including Langholm Moor. Some 25,000 acres – stretching from Auchenrivock in the south to Hartsgarth in the north – was to be marketed from the Borders Estate, including a number of farm tenancies, which the estate insisted would continue as they are under whoever took ownership.

Fur flew in the fight between hunters and naturalists after gamekeepers reported the RSPB to the police over the charity’s cull of stoats on Orkney. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association alerted Police Scotland to what it believed to be a case of illegal trap setting carried out by RSPB contractors working on the multi-million pound project.

JUNE

The Scottish Farmer:

Two-year-old Daisy McLaughland with her eight-week-old Belted Galloway calf, Vera, at Newmilns Show (Pic: Claire Taylor)

AS US President Donald Trump met with UK politicians to discuss post-Brexit trade deals, SNP MPs said that hormone injected beef and chlorinated chicken were not welcome on Scottish supermarket shelves, and called on the UK government to rule out any deal with the US which would lead to a deterioration in food standards.

Pig farmers were urged to be vigilant following an outbreak of swine dysentery in the north-east of Scotland. The disease hadn’t been detected in Scotland for five years, until routine testing revealed its presence – in a very mild form – in several pig businesses along the coast between Elgin and Fraserburgh. Scottish Pig Producers chief executive Andy McGowan said that the outbreak had proven to be a useful test of the industry’s voluntary notification system, as it was the first time it had been triggered since its introduction.

Scotland’s Moredun Research Institute revealed that it was developing a quick, on-farm diagnostic blood test for sheep scab, which will enable vets to rapidly diagnose sheep scab infestation before the appearance of clinical signs and importantly, without the need to send blood samples to a laboratory for analysis, allowing for early interventions and treatments.

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ANDREW WILSON punching the air in celebration after being tapped out as overall champion of champions at West Fife show Ref:EC010619809

Consumers considering making the switch to non-dairy milks to ‘save the planet’ were advised to think again, as researchers at Cranfield University warned that almond ‘milk’ production consumes huge amounts of drinking-quality water, while milk from cows ­- particularly Scottish grass-fed cows – relies almost entirely on rainfall.

Graham’s The Family Dairy launched a limited edition glass milk bottle to commemorate its 80th year in business, and pledged to continue supplying fresh milk in traditional bottles after the celebrations were over, as the idea was popular with its doorstep customers.

Faced with a mountain of evidence, Scottish Natural Heritage finally publicly conceded that white-tailed eagles prey on healthy lambs – ending years of official denial over the species’ impact on Highlands and Islands sheep farms. Scottish Crofting Federation chair Yvonne White, commented: “This has been long overdue and is the first time that SNH and, by implication, RSPB, who also sit on the national stakeholders’ group, have so publicly acknowledged this without reservations. It is something that crofters have known for the best part of 20 years.”

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Royal Highland Education Trust board chairman George  Lawrie embarked on a 600-mile Massey Ferguson marathon to celebrate 20 years of ‘taking the classroom to the countryside’. His itinerary took in 12 school visits, towing a trailer carrying a Highland cow sculpture made from recycled farm metal, and a grand finale at the Royal Highland Show. Pictured at Ingliston House, the team behind the fundraiser were Robbie Pollok and Kev Paxton from sculptors ArtFe, MF area manager Hamish Brown, Reekie Perth's general manger Sam Mercer, George himself, RHET's Katrina Barclay and RHAS chief executive Alan Laidlaw Ref:EC120619934

Meat wholesalers warned that action to reverse Scotland’s falling livestock numbers could not wait until after Brexit: “The latest figures show calf registrations down by another 2% and, if we wait until Brexit and transition is finished, we’ll have lost another 15% of our national livestock output,” said SAMW president, Andy McGowan, who called for an immediate uplift in funding for beef calf producers, a revamp of the upland sheep support scheme, the extension of ‘producer organisations’ to all livestock sectors and the simplification the Beef Efficiency Scheme.

As many as one in 12 rams are born with a ‘same sex preference’ that makes them useless to commercial sheep businesses. This surprise statistic was aired on a Channel 4 documentary – ‘My gay dog and other animals’. Dewi Jones of commercial sheep breeder Innovis, said that the sheep sector was well aware that a certain proportion of rams would be classed as ‘shy breeders’, but conceded that the term was something of a euphemism, because some of them were anything but shy when it came to other rams.

Internet idiocy saw a blameless UK rare breeds farm caught up in an animal welfare row, receiving death threats from online trolls who had confused it with a similarly-named American farm. Fair Oaks Farms, south of Chicago, is a 15,000 cow dairy farm which sacked several staff after undercover footage revealed poor treatment of dairy calves. At the same time, in East Sussex, Ian Ledger of the Fair Oak rare breeds farm, woke up to a storm of abuse on social media, including threats of violence, despite his collection of sheep, alpacas and chickens being famously well-treated.

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A record-breaking turnout of 430 people saw the annual event held in memory of agricultural journalist Joe Watson raise more than £16,000 for charity, hosted this year at Berryleys Farm, Grange, Keith, by Stewart and Hazel Stronach, their son Stewart and his partner Fiona. Pictured here, Big Joe’s nephew ‘wee’ Joe and niece Amy Watson presented the perpetual stockjudging trophy to Gary Christie

African Swine Fever swept through Asia like wildfire, hitting China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Cambodia and North Korea. Millions of pigs were culled as a result in what was described as the ‘biggest animal disease outbreak we’ve ever had on the planet’ by veterinary epidemiologist Dirk Pfeiffer from City University of Hong Kong. “It makes the foot-and-mouth disease and BSE outbreaks pale in comparison to the damage that is being done. And we have no way to stop it from spreading,” he warned.

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DAVID ADAM of Kippen won the RHET competition that asked Scotland’s primary schoolkids to invent a pedal-powered piece of farm machinery – his pedal-driven silage feeding wagon prototype was scaled up into a full working model displayed in the popular RHET centre at the Royal Highland Show

Scottish vet and venison sector champion, Dr John Fletcher, was awarded the 2019 Marsh Christian Trust Award by the Rare Breed Survival Trust. Auchtermuchty-based Dr Fletcher is well known to many as Britain’s first commercial deer farmer – and more recently as the first man in Scotland to have donated a kidney to a stranger. But the RBST award was for his work with Chillingham Wild Cattle, the only wild cattle herd in Britain.

Balfron, in Stirlingshire became home to what is claimed to be the ‘world’s first’ sustainable land-based, clean water prawn farm. The business, branded as Great British Prawns, was established next door to a major dairy operation to take advantage of heat from its AD plant, and aimed to produce high-value warm water king prawns with minimal environmental impact, deliver fresh from tank to plate within 24 hours, with no need for freezing or air miles.

Online grocer Ocado announced a major investment in ‘vertical farming’, with the intention of establishing self-contained farm units to grow herbs and leafy greens right next to its urban distribution centres. “We foresee a day where customers’ vegetables are harvested hours before they are packed, metres from where they are shipped, bringing the freshest, best tasting, and pesticide-free produce to customers with the fewest food miles,” the company declared.

On the eve of the Royal Highland Show, NFU Scotland warned that Brexit-fuelled uncertainty, an over-supplied market and a €100m bail out deal for Irish beef farmers had all contributed to a significant collapse in the market price for beef, with the deadweight steer price in Scotland hitting a three-year low of 344 p/kg.

Growing up on a farm, with early years exposure to a wide variety of mucky dust, could significantly lower as child’s risk of developing asthma, a scientific study suggested. Researchers at Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare had analysed the microbes in toddlers’ rural and urban homes, then followed up their research at six-years-old to see how many of the children had been diagnosed with asthma. Kids with dung in their young lungs had less than half the asthma rate of those that didn’t.

The Scottish Farmer:

Scott Bourman could not disguise his elation after he was named as the winner of the SAYFC Stockman of the Year competition at the Royal Highland Show, and carried to the stage by his friends Ref:RH220619190 Rob Haining

JULY

TV PRESENTER Chris Packham was accused of ‘betraying’ conservation with a litany of ‘falsehoods and smears’ about grouse moors. Speaking on BBC radio about reports of the disappearance of two satellite-tagged golden eagles in Perthshire, Mr Packham referred to grouse moors as ‘industrialised landscapes’ where ‘there’s not much else living except grouse’. Scottish Land and Estates chairman David Johnstone retorted: “While managed grouse moors will have less predatory species such as foxes, crows and stoats, this results in significantly higher numbers and diversity of rare birds such as curlew, lapwing, golden plover, ring ouzel, black grouse than on moorland where those predators are not controlled.”

Tenant farming commissioner, Bob McIntosh repeatedly warned all tenant farmers that the countdown to the ‘past improvements’ amnesty deadline has begun in earnest, with less than a year to go til they lost a ‘lifetime opportunity’ to safeguard the future of their tenancies. “Taking part is not a two minute job, it is a process that takes a few months,” he stressed. “However, it holds a great deal of benefits. There isn’t a catch in this situation. It’s a win-win.”

Tory leadership contender, Boris Johnson, promised that Scottish farming would finally receive its £160m lost ‘convergence’ cash payments, backdated to 2013/14. Mr Johnson also promised an extra £25m per year in subsidies for Scottish farmers if he became Prime Minister. Stressing that Scottish farmers had been ‘poorly treated’, he said his plans for the post-Brexit era would see farmers north of the Border receive the same per hectare farming payment as the rest of the UK.

The Scottish Farmer:

TSF COLUMNIST John Elliot judging the group of four inter-breed championship at the Great Yorkshire Show

Scotland maintained its TB-free status despite a number of small, but persistent, outbreaks around the country. Kintyre had seen around 300 cattle culled following the detection of infection, while a case in Castle Douglas had led to 50 cattle being culled. Scotland’s chief vet, Sheila Voas, assured the farming industry that there was no cause for alarm: “There is no threat to our TB status – it is just that the number of cattle infected is slightly bigger than usual, which is why it has attracted more attention,” she pointed out. “Officially, TB-free doesn’t mean no outbreaks – we are at a very low level compared to the number of herds we have.”

First Milk sent shockwaves through west coast dairy communities by announcing plans to close its Arran creamery and ‘scale back’ operations at Campbeltown. In spring 2018, the co-op had set about selling both operations as going concerns - but no buyers had been found.

Ayrshire early potatoes were granted PGI status by the EU, after a three-year campaign to provide protection for the brand. Chairman of Girvan Early Growers, Drew Young, from Girvan Mains, was one of the main drivers behind the push for protected status and said it ‘had been a long time coming.’

Not for the first or last time in 2019, the red meat sector found itself at odds with the BBC, as a documentary on BSE failed to acknowledge the actions taken by the government and the farming sector to eradicate the disease and protect the public from future risk. Industry bodies accused the corporation of harbouring an ‘anti-farming agenda’.

Pig classes at the Great Yorkshire Show were cancelled for the first time in the event’s 161-year history, after a pig showing signs of swine dysentry was identified at the Royal Norfolk Show two weeks ahead of the Harrogate event. However, tests carried out on the suspect pig later proved negative.

The Scottish Farmer:

KILLIN'S country showdown kids got back into the swing of wool packing at Braes of Ardeonaig – from left, Isobel Campbell, Annie Taylor, Katie Campbell, Declan Barker, Logan Barker and Grace Campbell (Pic: Neil Campbell)

Fergus Ewing announced another year of the National Basic Payment Support Scheme, offering a cash injection to eligible farmers of up to 95% of their Basic Payment Scheme 2019 payments – an increase of 5% on previous years.

Boris Johnson succeeded in his bid to become the new leader of the Conservative Party, and succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister – and Scottish farming industry leaders were quick to remind him of the £160million promise he had made on the campaign trail. But they also noted, with some alarm, his ‘hard Brexiteer’ willingness to leave the EU without a formal withdrawal deal on October 31 – which many economists had warned would cost Scottish farmers much more than £160m.

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The Latitude music festival, held on farmland in England, fell foul of animal welfarists for dying its flock of sheep pink. Festival organisers explained that the animals had been: “dip-dyed using natural, water-based dye which they are used to as part of their normal farm life for insecticides and parasites like itch-mite, blow-flies, ticks and lice.

Scientists at The Pirbright Institute destroyed the final archive stocks of rinderpest virus held in the World Reference Laboratory for the disease. Rinderpest virus caused the most lethal cattle disease ever known, but after a huge global campaign it was eradicated from the world in 2011. But more than 40 laboratories across 36 countries still held samples of rinderpest and Pirbright had led a campaign to mop up this potential source of new infection.

Scotland’s Control of Dogs Act (2010) was not fit for purpose, an influential parliamentary committee concluded. The Scottish Parliament’s Public Accounts and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee, after hearing evidence from concerned bodies, including NFU Scotland, concluded ScotGov needed to undertake a comprehensive review of all dog control legislation as a matter of urgency.

AUGUST

BORIS JOHNSON used his first speech as Prime Minister to say that he wanted to ditch the EU’s opposition to genetically modified crops: “Let’s liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-GM rules. Let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.”

A ban of metaldehyde slug pellet products was overturned and declared unlawful. Foremr Defra minister Michael Gove made the decision to withdraw all products containing metaldehyde with immediate effect back in December2018 - but following legal challenges, the products were put back on the market.

The Scottish Farmer:

Hamish MacGillivray, nearly five-years-old, helped his granny and uncles at Carrabus Farm get ready for Islay Show (Pic: Alyson MacGillivray)

An island crofting couple on one side of a long court battle after two rivals bulls clashed in a fight for territory successfully defended their case at Stornoway Sheriff Court. David Hargreaves and his wife, Janine, formerly of Kirkibost, Great Bernera, Lewis, were being pursued for £20,000 worth of damages by their former neighbours Kathleen and Bernard Allen, who claimed that a poorly-maintained boundary fence was why the Hargreaves’ Belted Galloway bull, ‘Ozzy’, had repeatedly invaded their land.

UK temperatures broke records – but while the public rejoiced in the sunshine, there was nervousness in agricultural circles, particularly in the south, that climate change was producing consistent year-on-year heatwaves that would put a serious strain on some farm businesses.

The UK’s House of Lords ruled against an EU move to ban vegetarian meat-substitute manufacturers from using words like ‘sausage’, ‘burger’ and ‘steak’ on food packaging. The Energy and Environment Sub-Committee’ actually warned that any action to take these product names off the vegetarian menu would actually reduce consumer clarity and be a barrier to growth in a burgeoning sector of the food industry. It also suggested that efforts to reduce meat consumption benefitted from the application of meaty terms to ‘healthier’ foods.

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JOHNNY MACKIE of Shotlinn Farm, Strathaven, was in the middle of second cut silage when a hot air balloon made a surprise landing in the field, containing pilot Mark Stelling and Strathaven Balloon Festival organisers Matthew Smith, who were out on a test run flight leading up to the festival

First Milk was called out over its ‘lack of commitment’ to outlying milk producers, as its annual report and accounts showed that it was delivering on turnover, operating profit and cash generation. NFU Scotland milk committee chairman John Smith, a First Milk supplier from Kintyre, said he was disappointed that the board’s business plan had moved away from small-scale production.

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LOTHIAN FARM manager, Bill Gray, was announced as the new chairman of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, replacing Jimmy Warnock, who had completed his two-year term

Scottish Natural Heritage loosened the tethers on the sale of Orkney Goose meat, allowing a trial run on the shelves of supermarkets Scotland-wide. Farmers and crofters have been plagued by the rising geese population for years, but an approval for local consumption had gone well enough for SNH to be willing to explore a ‘sustainable’ model of goose control with an income for affected farmers.

Rural crime had cost Scotland more than £1.5m in 2018, a bill up by a worrying 62.2% from 2017, according to figures from the NFU Mutual’s latest crime report. The insurer said that the sharp rise was driven mainly by high value thefts of tractors, quad bikes and other farm vehicles, with farm tools and fuel also favourites of the thieves.

Scotland’s rank and file police officers expressed concern over the level of service being provided in rural areas. While Police Scotland maintained that its compliment of officers remained high at over 17,200 nationwide, the Scottish Police Federation warned that internal demands within the service meant that many officers were being removed from the more rural postings, leaving large swathes of the countryside without adequate cover.

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FLASH FLOODING hit the Yorkshire devastated farmland, destroying dykes and scattering silage bales – pictured here is the aftermath on Douglas Barningham's land, near Arkengarthdale, Reeth (Pic: Wayne Hutchinson)

The Scottish Farmer:

BOB HAY, a stalwart of both the poultry industry and NFU Scotland, took the union’s North East region ‘Unsung Hero’ award for 2019, presented at the annual Turriff Agricultural by sponsor Malcolm Allan (left); Mr Hay; regional chairman Davie Winton (right) and NFUS president Andrew McCornick (second right)

The Scottish Farmer:

Scottish and Northern Irish Blackface sheep breeders look on as judge Willie Dunlop, Elmscleugh, taps out his winning ewe lambs at Ballymena Auction Mart (Pic: Patsy Hunter)

The latest ‘Climate Change and Land Use’ report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out, and farming was immediately beset by press headlines and television reports proclaiming that a ‘plant-based diet can fight climate change’. However, on reading the hefty report, it emerged that all the coverage had been substantially dictated by the interpretations offered by anti-meat campaigners ­- and the IPCC had actually endorsed extensive grass-based livestock systems like those used by Scottish farmers.

The Scottish Farmer:

Rory Scott, 11-years-old, from Bonar Bridge, herding sheep at the Great Annual Sale of North Country Cheviot lambs at Lairg Market Ref:RH130819162 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer

Vets were encouraged to speak to their livestock and equine clients about their use of electric fences, to ensure that the technology was always used responsibly and safely. The British Veterinary conceded that containment fences were currently a ‘necessary option’ for many clients – but called for further research into ‘non-harmful’ alternatives.

The Scottish Farmer:

LOCAL couple Andrew and Suzanne Jardine were chosen to take over a 242-acre farm on the Applegirth Estate in Dumfries and Galloway, and signed a ten-year lease with Crown Estate Scotland, who manage the estate, following a tendering process that attracted a number of applicants.

The Scottish Farmer:

ALL SMILES in the young handlers ring at Keith Show for young Erin Irvine and Mum Mel, after the wee yin completed her first ever young handlers class

The Scottish Farmer:

HRH The Prince of Wales visited the Castle of Mey to view the herd of native Angus cattle introduced by The Queen Mother, and meet Judith Bachelar of Sainsbury’s and farmer Danny McCarthy

Shoppers needed better ‘country of origin’ labelling on processed beef products to make the choice to support Scottish producers. In a letter to the Defra Minister George Eustice, NFU Scotland said that shoppers should be able to identify where all the beef they buy comes from, whether it is fresh or processed.

Scotland’s potato industry was on high alert as the next official Brexit date of October 31 approached, with widespread concern as to whether a market for its seed potatoes would still exist afterwards. Addressing growers at the Potatoes in Practice event, AHDB’s potato strategy director, Rob Clayton said: “As things stand, unless we get third country recognition, there is no opportunity for us to move raw product into Europe. This is impacting the seed sector, as we have 13% of our tonnage going to European markets in the last year alone so right now, October is looking worrying.”

Difficult decisions needed to be made to make Scotland’s livestock disease surveillance system fit its budget – and this month it was confirmed that the likely casualties would be SRUC Veterinary Services’ post-mortem labs at Perth and Auchincruive, in Ayrshire, plus potential job losses at Aberdeen, Dumfries, Inverness, St Boswells and Thurso. Announcing its restructuring proposals, the SRUC was at pains to stress that the ‘historic model’ of farm animal disease surveillance was no longer relevant, and insisted that the changes would ‘ultimately be to the benefit of the industry’.

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Rebecca Wylie (age 3), and Robert Wylie, (age 2), with their set of newborn triplets - the first time there had been triplets in 52 years of the Wylie family being at Broadstone Farm, Gateside, Beith

The Scottish Farmer:

RM and JF Seed's harvesting team took advantage of August sunshine to barrel winter wheat on the banks of the Forth at Dunmore Home Farm near Stirling

UK farmers were asked to air their views about the ongoing reintroduction of sea eagles on the Isle of Wight. The National Sheep Association was keen to hear from farmers regardless of where they lived in the UK – because the eagles were expected to spread, as the NSA put it, ‘with no real discussion or engagement with the farming community’.

‘The British public should have the right to buy cheaper US produce if they want to’ – that was the message delivered by US farmers leader, Zippy Duvall, who suggested that it was time for the US to be on a ‘level playing field’ and that the UK must ‘accept US food standards’ in any future deal.

SEPTEMBER

The Scottish Farmer:

Top Scottish ploughman Andrew Mitchell snr won his seventh World Ploughing Championship title against 25 other nations at Lake of the Woods, Baudette, Minnesota, USA

Jim McLaren was appointed as chairman of NFU Mutual, replacing Richard Percy who was retiring after seven years in the post. A former president of NFU Scotland, from 2007 until 2011, and chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, from 2011 to 2018, Mr McLaren was awarded an MBE in 2017 for his services to agriculture.

A survey was launched to gather the thoughts of Scottish farmers and crofters on the viability of establishing mobile abattoirs in the country. With rising consumer demand for traceable, locally sourced meat, and the closure of a number of local abattoirs, the Scottish Government commissioned the research to see if the idea had grassroots support.

Animal rights activists were slapped down by the Advertising Standards Authority for ‘misleading’ posters claiming that wool was ‘as cruel as fur’. The adverts, funded by pressure group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and displayed on buses seen around, read ‘Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes. Wool is just as cruel as fur. Go wool-free this winter’. Following complaints, the ASA investigated the campaign and decided to ban any repeat, ruling that its central claim was untrue because sheep ‘were not killed for their wool as animals were in the fur industry’.

A militant vegan was given a two-year restraining order following a series of death threats to Devon-based sheep farmer John Wood, who created the ‘Meat and Greet British Farming’ Facebook page to educate the public on farming practices. The court heard that 37-year-old vegan activist Emma Christoforakis, had confronted the Woods on their farm in Wimborne Minster, calling them ‘murderers’, and had sent violent threats to the whole family including their two children, aged 12 and 15.

In the wake of the British Cattle Movement Service’s decision to remove cattle passports from a number of animals bred in the Ballinloan herd earlier in the year, the British Limousin Cattle Society published a list of affected bulls that it had formally de-registered, permanently removing their pedigree status.

ARLA took the lead on the ‘nuclear bomb’ issue of unwanted male calves on dairy farms, giving its UK milk producers notice that early slaughter would no longer be allowed on its supplier farms from the start of 2021.

Pork shortages arising from the African Swine Fever outbreak in the Far East saw prices rise for UK producers, who are currently getting 3.5% more than the same time last year, off the back of a 21% lift in exports.

The Scottish Farmer:

AS EVER the pig racing was a great hit with the crowds at Strathaven Show

Scottish Forestry reminded landowners, householders and developers that new felling permissions had come into force and were needed in advance of felling trees. The new rules meant that any business or individual who felled trees without a valid felling permission could be fined up to £5000 per tree and forced to replant the area.

The Scottish Farmer:

Scotland’s Highlands have long been maintained by farmers and their grazing livestock – but with land abandonment reaching critical levels, the future of farming in the hills was hanging by a thread ­ so said region 2 and 3 farmers, as they called for the £160 million convergence catch-up payment to go straight to those to whom it was owed.

Cattle traceability in Scotland was about to take a great leap forward, said ScotEID, with the launch of a ‘revolutionary’ electronic identification system to track and monitor Scotland’s cattle herd throughout their entire life, which would use both Ultra High Frequency (UHF) scanning alongside Low Frequency technology to bring together all farm livestock movement recording, and do away with the need for paper passports.

The Scottish Farmer:

WORKING PAST the dusk to get the job done, Meikleour Estate's Ewan Simpson and Sid Thomson bringing in Charlotte variety salad potatoes in September (Pic: Christina Simpson)

Aspiring new entrants to Scottish agriculture, with the desire to farm but no land upon which to do so, could now access a match-maker service to introduce them to older farmers with land to spare. The Scottish Land Matching Service, launched by the Scottish Government – and ‘hosted’ by the National Farmers Union Scotland – had a remit to initiate discussions between new entrants and landowners, and then provide ‘unbiased guidance and support’ to both parties as they seek to come to terms.

Livestock auction mart operators made plain their fear of a ‘catastrophic’ no-deal Brexit, and suggested that any government which allowed such a scenario should fund a top-up payment on sheep passing through the sale ring to bring their price back up to where it would have been without the loss of EU markets.

Hopes of a change in the UK’s sheep ageing rules were revived, with the launch of a Defra consultation into a possible shift away from checking each animal for the emergence of adult teeth, in favour of a date-based system that would regard sheep submitted for slaughter up to June 30 in the year after their birth to be considered to be under 12 months old.

The Scottish Farmer:

A campaign to have Scotch Lamb declared the National Dish for St Andrew’s was revived by livestock auctioneers United Auctions, which asked its 18,000 customers to spread the word amongst family, friends, neighbours and rural communities that lamb should be top of the menu on November 30. Pictured here, UA auctioneers Richard Close, Peter Wood, Richard Henderson and Andrew Weir, with managing director George Purves, lead by example

Tasmanian farmer and former food critic, Matthew Evans, called out the vegan movement over its ‘ignorance’ about the the death toll of small animals associated with crop and production. Taking the example of a local pea-producing operation, he pointed out:  “To protect the peas, they have some wildlife fences, but also have to shoot a lot of animals. When I was there, they had a licence to kill about 150 deer. They routinely kill about 800 to 1000 possums and 500 wallabies every year, along with a few ducks. So, more than 1500 animals die each year to grow about 75ha of peas for our freezers.”

October

LIKE RAW meat into a den of hungry lions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to deliver the £160m of convergence money owed to Scottish farming set off an almighty squabble over how it should be divided. Hill farmers and crofters were in uproar over NFU Scotland’s calculation that the money could do the most economic good if a lot of it went to productive Region 1 farmers, rather than all going to those in Region 3 whose historic support shortfall had justified it in the first place.

NFUS president, Andrew McCornick, issued a heartfelt plea for an end to industry in-fighting – and called on Scotland’s farmers to remember that their industry existed as an interconnected ecosystem, any part of which would fall without the vital business relationships that tie the highest hills to the flattest arable fields.

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STRATHMORE JAC were the winners of 2019’s SAYFC bale art competition, which saw clubs across the country assemble creations to promote cancer awareness as part of their existing cancer campaign. Ref:RH021019047 (Pic: Rob Haining)

Red meat consumption should remain part of a balanced diet, a review of dietary research concluded. Led by Dalhousie University and McMaster University, in Canada, scientists examined existing evidence, and concluded that cutting down on sausages, mince, steak and all other forms of red or processed meat would be a ‘waste of time’ for most people.

Fresh milk processor Müller warned its Scottish farmer suppliers that their 25% surge in milk production was ‘not sustainable’. The business, which took over Scottish dairy giant Wiseman in 2012, announced plans to conduct a ‘review’ with its 230 dairy farmer suppliers in Scotland to address that over-supply.

Sheep farmers warned Westminster’s latest farm minister that she had shown a ‘serious lack of knowledge’ of their sector by proposing both a ban on live exports and a ‘local abattoirs only’ policy. Recently appointed Defra Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, had previously taken an active role in the campaign to end exports of livestock from the UK for slaughter on the continent – and had made the issue a keystone of her post-Brexit plans.

Kintyre’s dairy farmers launched their own bid to buy the Campbeltown Creamery, and its famous Mull of Kintyre-branded cheddar, from dairy co-op First Milk. The group of 29 local dairy farmers opened a crowd-funding campaign to raise pump-priming cash, with a target of £50,000.

Sheep shearer Stuart Connor broke the British record for the number of lambs sheared in nine hours – a challenge he took on in memory of his three-year-old daughter Grace, who passed away shortly after being diagnosed with the rare genetic condition, Mitochondrial Disease. Although Stuart’s bid finished shy of Ivan Scott’s World record of 867, he beat the British record by four lambs with his final tally of 785.

With a remit to set the record straight regarding Scottish agriculture and climate change, Scotland’s Rural College researcher, Dr Gemma Miller, was appointed a Fellow with NFUS, where she began putting together materials to provide clear and scientifically backed facts to counter the deluge of misinformation besetting the industry.

Sir David Attenborough  declared that ‘powerful new laws’ were needed to protect and reconnect the UK’s wildlife habitats with a ‘Nature Recovery Network’. He co-operated with The Wildlife Trusts to issue a short film highlighting the problem of wildlife decline­ - which implied that monoculture crops, urbanisation and transport infrastructure were the chief culprits.

The wrangling within the British Limousin Cattle Society as a result of the stripping of the bull, Ballinloan Jaegerbomb, of his pedigree status continued, as the BLCS and its chief executive, Iain Kerr, parted company by ‘mutual agreement’. Former employee, Richard Saunders, was drafted in to take charge of the day-to-day running of one of the UK largest and richest breed societies, with almost 3000 members.

Scotland’s livestock farmers should stop moaning about the cost of promoting and protecting their brand and start spending more. As industry leaders gathered at Penicuik’s Moredun Research Institute to discuss how best to steer public opinion towards supporting UK livestock farmers, award-winning sheep farmer, Jim Logan, put the cat amongst the pigeons by suggesting an increase in slaughter levies to pay for more positive publicity.

Mid-month, Kintyre’s dairy farmers smashed their crowdfunding target of £50,000, intended to pump-prime their bid to buy the Campbeltown Creamery, then increased it to £80,000 to accommodate all the people who still wished to donate.

Amongst arable sector farmers and engineers, harvest-end conversation was dominated by a rash of problems with machinery ­– and the suggestion that a recent increase in the biofuel element percentage included in red diesel was to blame for clogging up fuel filters and bringing tractors and combines to a gasping halt.

November

CONVERGENCE FUNDING would be ‘returning to the hills’, declared Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing, as he revealed his plan to allocate the £160m lump sum – which would use part of that payment to plug the shortfall in funding for the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme. NFU Scotland, which had long warned against such a move, was not impressed.

Supermarket giant Tesco was accused of ‘pushing veganism’ onto youngsters, and in so doing jeopardising their health, after broadcasting an advert showing a father replacing meat sausages with vegan alternatives at his daughter’s request. Farmers For Action’s called on consumers to boycott the chain.

Some hi-health Highland cattle folds had their status compromised by a ‘blip’ in procedure at the breed’s most recent sale in Oban, it was revealed. The Highland Cattle Society admitted that its own rules had not been followed exactly when allowing a fold, with indeterminate health status, to be allowed to be dispersed at its autumn sale in Oban and sold under the ‘auspices of the society’.

First Milk started an employee consultation on the proposed closure of Campbeltown Creamery, signalling that efforts to save the Mull of Kintyre cheese operation had failed. Local dairy farmers’ spirited bid to take over the business had faltered amid concerns that the running costs would not be matched by the amount supermarkets were willing to pay for the cheese.

Müller ‘exercised its contractual right’ to serve 12 months notice to 14 dairy farmers in the Aberdeenshire area that it would no longer be buying their milk, as it had more than it needed for local fresh milk markets. “Surplus milk is currently being transported by Müller to England where markets can be found for it, resulting in more than 6000 tanker movements travelling a total of 2.5 million miles,” said a company spokesman.

Scotland’s potato industry could be wiped out by 2025 by the growing threat of potato cyst nematodes, Soil Association Scotland warned. Around 5% of seed land in Scotland was currently infested by the well-known potato pest and around 33% of untested ware land was also suspected of PCN. With a longevity of 25-30 years, infested land could be rendered commercially useless for potatoes.

LGBTQ+ farming organisation Agrespect was given formal backing by NFU Scotland. Union president Andrew McCornick said: “Many LGBTQ+ people in the farming and crofting community still choose not to disclose their sexuality because of discrimination and bias. We all have a moral responsibility to advocate and support our friends and colleagues regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Being open about your sexuality shouldn’t be a barrier to leading a happy life and a fulfilling career in the countryside and land-based industries.”

Flooding caused devastation on farms in the east of England, with some farmers forced to abandon their harvests. There was concern that affected businesses might not be able to make their greening commitments, prompting calls to Defra seeking derogations on certain regulations.

Looking on nervously, Aberdeenshire farmers called for immediate action to clear up the mess left behind by poor river management in their region, which they blamed for increased flooding on surrounding farmland.

The extreme weather had hit the tail end of the UK potato harvest for the second year running – and caught out the processing firms that relied on late autumn spuds to make the crisps, frozen chips and mash that see Britain through the winter. Manufacturers were reportedly scouring mainland Europe for replacement supplies of varieties with the right sugar content for processing.

The Scottish Farmer:

New Zealand judge, Selwyn Donald, pictured about to high-five Brian Yates and his SuperHeifer champion at AgriScot Ref:RH201119032

“A narrow and grossly incomplete presentation of red meat production” – that was the damning verdict on the BBC’s documentary on the relationship between livestock and the world’s climate emergency, ‘Meat: A threat to our planet?’ The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers said: “What happens on the other side of the world is not comparable to the sustainable production methods deployed by generations of UK farmers.”

Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire had its general licence to control wild birds restricted, on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime on the property. Scottish Natural Heritage, which oversees the general licence system, said that the restriction would prevent people from using the general licences on the land in question for three years – a period that could increase if more evidence of offences came to light.

December

ABERDEEN and Northern Marts kicked off what could become a war for customers by reducing its member commission rate to 3%, claimed to be the auction ring rate in Scotland for more than 30 years.

Tenant farmers’ leaders expressed their bemusement that more than half of the sector was still to make a start on the process of having the value of any farm improvements they had made put onto the official record of their tenancy under the industry amnesty which began in June, 2017 - ­and which would end on June 12, 2020.

A single minimum level of pay for agricultural workers was agreed by the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board, representing an increase of 3% across all allowances and a single minimum hourly rate for all agricultural workers, irrespective of age and duties, that is equal to the UK Government’s National Living Wage.

Müller put an extra penny per litre on the table to persuade its ‘Direct’ contract farmers to stop euthanising healthy bull calves on farm. The Müller Direct Premium 2020, which will run from January 1 to December 31, offers a 1.0ppl premium based on full compliance by farmers on four animal welfare initiatives.

Grangemouth oil refinery agreed to reduce the amount of biodiesel added to its conventional fuel while investigations into problems with its use in farm machinery continued. Operating company, Petroineos, had apparently accepted at least the possibility that the percentage of recycled biological oils being added to standard diesel might be involved in the winter epidemic of blocked filters on tractors. While delighted at the prospect of some less problematic fuel, farmers immediately asked what the hell they were meant to do with all the dubious red diesel they had already stockpiled in their farm tanks?

ScotGov announced that it would once again offering interest-free ‘loans’ to hill and upland farmers and crofters, as an advance on their Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme payments. Eligible farmers and crofters would be offered up to 95% of their allocated Common Agricultural Policy LFASS payment from January.

Britain’s ‘Brexit Election’ produced a decisive win for Boris Johnson’s Conservative party, which was returned to power with a hefty majority and, in theory, all the political power it needed to push ahead with the Brexit process. The only cloud on the Tory horizon was in Scotland, where the electorate had just as decisively backed Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, on their ticket to pursue continued EU membership via Scottish independence…