By Pat Wilson

I always remember being told as a child that life is precious – and as I recently found out, it most certainly is!

A few weeks ago, after feeding my calves, I went to make sure our Highland pony had enough hay, water and fresh bedding. She needed some sawdust, so I duly dropped a bale beside her – as I had done on numerous occasions – but this time I managed to spook her.

I remember putting my hand out to reassure her and the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance having morphine pumped into me! I have no idea what happened and never will.

I think Bracken pushed past me and inadvertently sent me flying 20-feet before I hit the concrete. My husband, Andrew, heard the commotion and came running to find me in a pool of blood with a fist size wound in the back of my head. Had he not been around and reacted as quickly it would have been a completely different story.

Ten days in Ninewells – where the care was excellent – gave me time to ponder. What happened, happened in seconds and with an animal I’d worked with hundreds of times.

So, be careful, especially when working with livestock and don’t ever take anything for granted. Personally, I’ll stick to cows from now on!

On the subject of taking things for granted, how many days did it take, in the icy grip of the so-called 'Beast from the East' before consumers were crying out for milk? It took just two days as the snow, wind and punishingly cold temperatures took their icy grip.

The shelves in supermarkets and corner shops were bare as record overnight snowfalls left huge drifts as high as ten feet tall. Roads were completely shut off as the wind constantly blew snow from adjacent fields on to Scottish highways across most of the country.

Warnings told us not to travel unless necessary and the country almost, but not quite, came to a standstill. School children were granted four days extra holiday in what has been described as the biggest educational weather disruption for more than 10 years. Offices and shops remained closed because staff couldn’t reach them.

But one industry didn’t and couldn’t cease operating. 'The Farmers' carried on, as they always do, whatever the weather and neither did Storm Emma’s arrival and her widespread carnage across the country deter the custodians of the land.

I know we weren’t alone in discovering that the parlour was frozen solid some mornings, delaying the milking. Hours of working tirelessly began to defrost pipes, to make sure cows could be milked and had water to drink.

These cows had full udders and needed relieved of their milk before the pain set in and not only that, but to provide the nation with that age-old commodity…milk!

Last Thursday dawned and the real dilemma. Will the milk tanker get it? It got as far as Crossgates in West Fife and headed straight back to Bellshill. Thursday’s milk met the same fate.

There were hurried phone calls, texts and e-mails pinging backwards and forwards. Tanks were full to the brim and could hold no more. What do we do with the milk?

After working endlessly, trying to keep the routine as normal as possible, farmers were told the heart-breaking story – let the entire contents down the drain. But that was only one story circulating from one office in Scotland.

The same company, but with offices further south, were telling farmers, if you can hold two days milk hold it and it’ll be lifted the following day … Wait a minute said another 'we can’t lift milk which has been kept for more than 24 hours'.

That’s fine, but what about the farms whose milk is only lifted every second day? Was it simply a case of literally watching your money run down the drain? In some cases, it was!

But wouldn’t it be better if every employee from the same company sang from the same hymn sheet? It was very much a case of 'the left hand definitely didn’t know what the right hand was doing'.

Aye there’s no point crying over spilt milk, but when that milk is the produce of painstakingly hard work, it really is distressing. So, I’ll risk another bout of having the 'Michael' taken out of me by non-dairy farmers for labouring on the price we get for our milk.

Isn’t it time we were paid a decent price for it? We’re not asking for a fortune, just a fair price!

And the past week really has shown how much graft goes into producing the white stuff and how little it takes before there’s a real shortage. I bet shoppers would have paid double just to get their hands on some.

The horrendous weather over the last week or so has really brought home the realities of farming and brings to mind my last article in The SF and the hostility between vegan extremists and farmers.

It doesn’t matter what you farm – beef, sheep, dairy, pigs, poultry, or whatever – not once during any weather, let alone what most of us have experienced over the last week, will any farmer give up.

They will put their stock above anything else, even themselves. While a lot of people enjoyed the comfort of a cosy house this past week, the industry has battled the weather and cared for their animals in the best way they can. They put animal health and welfare before their own to provide food for a growing nation.

Not only that, who did we see pulling stuck vehicles out of the snow, clearing the roads or taking someone stuck to a place of safety?

Now, as things get back to normal and the shelves fill up again with milk and bread, there’s a question on many farmers lips. Could we have brought the country to a complete standstill? I don’t think you need me to answer that!

Personally, I can’t say I am a person who wastes time hating another person. So, it makes me really sad to see how much hatred farmers, right across the whole country, were receiving from extremist vegans.

It’s your prerogative to be a vegan, whether it be for your health or for another reason, but don't ever justify it by saying that farmers don’t care for their animals.

While farming is in the spotlight like never before, I would like to congratulate Wiltshire farmer, Minette Batters, on being the NFU’s first female president in its’ 109-year history. She will serve for two years and hopefully lead our industry through Brexit and beyond. Hopefully she has set a precedent among her Scottish colleagues.

On a final, lighter note, may I wish everyone competing the Dairy Expo at Carlisle market at the weekend the very best of luck – but there can only be one winner!