The UK and Northern Ireland are politically, in a shambles – and at a time when we should be having strong leadership.

I sure have sympathy for the Prime Minister with all the back-stabbing that is going on in Westminster. The poor lass must be struggling to know who to turn to for honest support in her endeavours to deal with the disaster that her predecessor, David Cameron, left behind, which led to our impending 'divorce' from the EU.

If the truth had been told at the time of the run up to the referendum, I reckon the outcome would have been very different. Having said that, I am still hopeful if will not happen because I feel sure, if we have another referendum on the terms of the divorce, we will get a different result.

Helping towards that change of result took place last week at the Stirling Bull Sales when that so-called farm minister turned up. I think his name was Gove, but I will not print my thoughts of him or I may be sued.

He certainly did himself much damage by not speaking to the Scottish farming press. What a faux pas! He has now made himself as unpopular as Maggie Thatcher when she introduced the poll tax!

It seems that all Mr Gove wants to do is pander to the English do-good brigade who want to ban nearly everything farming represents. The most recent crazy idea is to ban all live cattle exports from the UK. Thankfully, we have a farm minister in Scotland, in Fergus Ewing, who increasingly understands how farming operates and is prepared to work with farmers. He told Gove in no uncertain terms that banning live cattle from being transported by ship or boat, in or out of Scotland, or within it, must continue, no matter what Westminster proposes.

For example, what is Gove going to do with all the cattle and sheep from our many islands around our coastline? Thousands are shipped to the mainland for further finishing or slaughter and have been so for as long as anyone can remember.

What is he going to do about Ireland, both North and South? Ireland exported close to 200,000 cattle live by ship to Europe and elsewhere in 2017. And, there were more than 100,000 calves exported live to Europe last year from Irish ports.

If this divorce ever takes place, I think we in Scotland should join up with Ireland and stay within the EU. One thing is for sure, there is much more common thinking between Ireland and Scotland than there is with the do-gooders at Westminster!

If Fergus Ewing sticks to his guns and tells Gove to get lost regarding his ban of all livestock movements by ship, he will have the support of every livestock farmer in Scotland.

We had a coach load of young and not so young students, from Greenmount College, in Northern Ireland, who had been in Scotland for a few days, taking in the Stirling Bull Sales, dairy, buffalo, and beef farming, so you can imagine there was much discussion about Brexit.

One lad was telling me his farm was right on the North-South border, with two farm lanes, in and out of it, with one going north and the other south! It has been like that since 1973 which was before he was born!

Now there is a big question about how they are going to treat this farm and I am sure there will be many others in this position. As you would expect there was plenty of discussion about the beef industry from both sides. As always, our different beef prices were reviewed which at the moment are not very far apart except for the native breeds – Angus, which has a premium of 40p and Hereford of 30p, which takes Ireland away above what is being paid in Scotland.

Now that reminds me of last month’s article when I commented on the SAMW president, Frank Clark’s request for more cattle. Well, he certainly got more than most of us expected, but how about the down side.

For all of August and most of September the deadweight beef price was 20p per kg higher than it is today. That is pretty close to £2500 per decker load of cattle less than it was in August. Now Frank, that kind of volatility is certainly not very good for any business.

Now a few people know that I keep beef statistics back many years. so following a request by an old friend, here are a few which may be of interest. It is the average base for R-grade cattle per kg over the past six years:

2012 – 355p

2013 – 399p

2014 – 356p

2015 – 360p

2016 – 351p

2017 – 373p

The reason for the spike in 2013 was 'horsegate' when a peak of 420 p per kg was reached in October and November of that year and the reason for the rise last year was currency, reduced Irish volume, and lower weights in Scotland.

The day after our Irish visitors, I had a flying visit from two bosses of a London restaurant chain with 22 operations, who source beef in Scotland. The conversation ranged from breeds of cattle, to shape, to table covers to average spend – you name it we discussed it.

Fortunately, I know a little about the catering trade so there was never a quiet moment. Now it just happened that one of those gentlemen had spent a few years in Australia in the catering trade so was fully conversant with the Aussie system of grading cattle, which is way ahead of this EUROP system which we have here. Needless to say, there was unanimity in the discussion. All he wanted was well finished cattle with length and width of top, but no big back-sides!

A little bit of good news – we had 5-inches of rain in January, compared to half an inch last year, but I hate to tell you we need the same for February and March if we are to have a dry summer. However, it is good to see the days stretching and the grass turning greener, with the crocuses and daffodils peeping up. I am expecting to give my lawn it’s first clip in a few days' time.

One thing that bothers me at this time of year is geese, thousands of them on our green grass and it is not just what they eat, it is the dirt they leave behind.

Two functions I have attended recently had some very interesting aspects. One was the SRUC Brexit conference at the Barony, near Dumfries and the other was the CARAS afternoon conference at Ingliston. You could almost have given them a common title of 'The challenge of change'.

Firstly, the SAC had a large line up of seven speakers, but the highlight for me was from the two SAC presentations by Kevin Bevan and Steven Thomson, who ably covered the current situation of the UK in the EU and the likely scenarios of what might happen after the we leave. For me, it was by far the best explanation of the good and the fears, that will possibly happen should we leave. Should there be another referendum, I would suggest that those two gentlemen should cover the country with a series of meetings, similar to that which they did at the Barony. It would give everyone a clear, unbiased view of how leaving the EU will affect Scottish farming.

The other five panel members were David Mundell MP, who gave the usual politician's speech telling the audience what they wanted to hear; Andrew McCornick NFUS president contributed in his usual forthright manner; David Christensen, Arla Foods and dairy farmer, gave an EU view, hinting that it was not really a good idea to leave the EU; Isla Roebuck, of Dunbia Meats, who said the UK divorce did not press all the positive buttons; and Neil Wilson, of HSBC, was his usual upbeat self ready to tackle whatever Brexit threw at the banking sector.

It's a discussion I will continue next month!