It’s hard to believe we’re through January already – it seems no time since the turn of the year – but it’s been a funny old start to 2018 weather-wise but I suppose we’ve all come to expect a lack of consistency in the weather.

Our baby calves were as confused as me – 'Coats on … coats aff'! Temperatures dropped to sub-zero with some place as low as -8°C in December, so I cosied all the young calves up in their jackets; hardly a week later and it was up to +8°C and with no air in the shed, coats aff.

No sooner had that happened and said coats were in the washing machine, and temperatures plummeted again – clean coats on (again!). So, I’ve decided just to leave them on for now and watch out for any ill effects. Fingers crossed for a good spring and with it some stable temperatures.

We had our annual weekend at Peebles Hydro, last week, for the local show's 'Farmers Dance'. There was a good mix of sheep, beef and dairy farmers and high on the topics of conversation was veganism!

I’m a bit of a social media junkie too and if you’re on Twitter you can’t fail to have noticed all the anti-dairy messages. It makes my blood boil.

As an industry we need to unite and fight against these anti-dairy messages. For some reason it’s these minority pressure groups that people seem to sit up and take notice of. Vegans and vegetarians make up a small part of the population, but they have loud voices. Ours need to be louder.

I listened to Australian vegan activist, on the Jeremy Vine Show, on Radio 2, this week. He claimed that there was no justification for what farmers do with their animals.

So, what do we do with them? I would put my neck on the line to claim that 99% of farmers care for their stock 'like they would their family'. Every walk of life, whether it be politicians, accountants, lawyers, teachers (even journalists) have a 'bad' element, but the clear majority are caring and considerate.

The vegan said meat products should not be labelled ham, beef, etc but: 'The dead body of an animal who didn’t want to die'. He claimed animals were being forcibly bred and then murdered, leading to the worst animal abuse on the planet! The fact that these animals were and are humanely slaughtered, he doesn’t seem to want to know about that.

Then, he cllaimed, we were force feeding dead animals to our children! And 'It’s not food it’s violence and this industry wouldn’t exist without the consumer'. Well, I have news for him: No industry would exist without the consumer.

The dairy industry plays an important role in helping to feed the UK but apparently, we are 'raping' (his words, not mine) dairy cows, so they have a calf every year. All these calves are removed straight away from their mothers and sold for veal!

Perhaps someone should do their homework on this, or if they have, tell us where they get their information from. Veal farms are widespread on the continent, but not at all common in the UK. It begs the question, if all calves are slaughtered, where do we get our replacements from?

Some facts for 'Mr and Mrs Vegan' – and these are scientifically proven facts, not just my opinion. Let’s trust the science.

* Using dairy foods in cooking is a great way to get key nutrients, like calcium and protein, into your diet. Protein is important for muscle development and repair of muscles.

* Milk and dairy products are the biggest contributor of vitamin B2 and B12 to the UK diet and are high in protein. That is needed for normal growth and development in children.

* Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth. Where do we find readily available calcium? Yes, you guessed it … milk!

* Milk and yoghurt provide iodine, which is particularly important for women during pregnancy and for teenage girls. Iodine is needed for the normal development of a baby’s brain during pregnancy and a 200ml glass of milk provides 44% of the daily recommended iodine intake for pregnant women.

It is also a great source of phosphorus, a mineral that’s important for maintaining healthy bones and teeth.

* And, while we’re on the subject, milk has a lower carbon food print than many of its alternatives.

Need I go on?

The UK is one of the leading nations in the world, yes, the world, when it comes to milk consumption. If you were to look in fridges across the country, milk would appear in 98% of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a glass, in a cup of tea, or in a bowl of cereal, milk remains a firm household favourite in homes across this country.

I have no problem with people not liking milk or associated dairy products. In fact, I don’t have a problem with anyone not liking anything, I just don’t like it when others ram it down the throats of those who do like it.

I do agree with vegans on one thing – everyone should have a 'choice'. His choice is to be a vegan, mine is not – so please allow me to make my own decisions.

UK dairy farmers play a key role in the prosperity and success of rural communities. As an industry, we are committed to providing tasty, world class products and playing a positive role in the wider and more local economy.

Here, we apply the highest standards of husbandry in Europe. We are not barbaric, murdering, abusive farmers. We love and care for our animals, and if it was toss up for the doctor for me or the vet for a sick cow, I know who’d win hands down.

I’m not naive enough to think we’ll turn vegans and vegetarians into happy meat eaters or milk drinkers any more than they are going to make us revert to their way of thinking. However, we are hardworking, honest people and just want to be left along to get on with our job.

Producing food takes a huge amount of time and effort and is already massively undervalued. So, we’ll go about our job quietly and you can go about yours … hopefully quietly!.

We are all responsible for looking after our industry, whatever sector it might fall into, and we need to tackle this growing criticism from single issue pressure groups. In a bid to do this, British dairying has been tasked with rendering every anti-dairy message as null and void – have a look at the website – for ideas of it is to help dairy farmers and stakeholders communicate and promote (not ram it down people’s throats) the health benefits of dairy products.