If you can make it, do go to one of Doug Avery’s talks on resilience while he is over here touring the country from New Zealand courtesy of RSABI and RHASS; he fooled a lot of hulking Angus farmers not used to expressing their emotions into physically hugging each other this morning at Forfar Mart, and it was worth going for that extraordinary sight alone. I’m not telling who hugged who, (what goes on tour stays on tour) but sadly I didn’t have the foresight to be sitting next to a female farmer. My friends in the North, you have been warned.

One thing Doug said in his moving talk which struck a chord with me was that failing isn’t failing, as long as you learn from it; that means not being scared to embrace change and try out new things, because that’s how you learn.

It’s also important to look around you and speak to each other; co-operation and communication is more important than ever in this brave new world, and looking around me, I have seen two things in the past week on neighbouring farms which tell me the same thing.

The first was green lifted piper potatoes being lifted for McCains to be shipped to Ireland at around £280 per ton. These had initially been destined for prepack, but they were too scabby to make the grade. The price and the buyer tell me definitively that potato supply is desperately short in England.

The second was the sight of carrots being irrigated in the middle of September to try and bulk them up. The signs are there for all to see - We are heading for shortages in fruit and veg, and Jim Brown’s thought-provoking article last week suggesting prices will have to rise applies to root crops just as much as it does to beef.

It was also fascinating to read his thoughts on the straw shortage situation, because our different circumstances and geographical position have led us to completely different conclusions. In case you missed it, Jim’s perfectly reasonable thesis was that escalating costs and the shortage of straw, combined with the benefits of being able to efficiently use slurry to cut bagged fertiliser use led him to the conclusion that housing beef cattle permanently as with many dairy herds is the way forward.

Jim is right that the rise of AD has reduced the amount of straw available, but there is still more than enough around in the lowlands of Angus in a normal year to supply the diminishing numbers of beef cattle that we have here. Even this year with our miserable bouts of straw we have enough, because we have baled our wheat straw as well, which is normally chopped. Of course, I could have sold it for a handsome sum to Ringlink for the carrot grower next door, but I don’t want to end up short, and Jim would argue that makes his point, which it does, but not for most years.

Looking at the cost of keeping cattle outdoors versus housing, I happened to see an AHDB paper on forage crops recently which suggested that in terms of labour and fuel, outwintering cows was about the same as housing, as bedding costs would be similar for housing in terms of straw and labour as the cost of feeding and moving the kale wire with outdoor cattle, but of course in the summer the costs of housing would surely be much higher than grazing cattle in fields.

Add to this the decline in the numbers of cattle needed in the future as the public move inexorably towards less red meat in their diet, and combine it with the consumer’s desire to see animals reared as naturally and attractively as possible, and it brings me to the conclusion that having cattle outside as much as possible is the best way for us to reduce straw use, at least on this farm. We only bring fattening bulls and heifers in to finish in the last few months of their life, and there is a good argument for keeping them in cubicles at this point if you can persuade the government to give you a capital grant. Our Spring calvers also come inside when we run out of space to keep them out. Otherwise everything stays out, and I think young calves in particular are healthier for it. A fair-sized chunk of our land is very light, which lends itself well to outwintering cattle, and most farms will not be suited to this.

There is a lot of land around which is suited to outwintering cattle however, and it would have held a lot of livestock in the winter in the past, but no longer does. It is common practice for stores to be sold to lowland farms for finishing, and for ewe hogs to be outwintered away from the hills; why can’t we apply that ancient custom of transhumance equally to suckler cows? My father has been doing it successfully from his hill farm in Glen Lyon to the Angus coast for decades. Our autumn calving Blue Greys graze out to 3000 feet in the summer, and then come down to calve next to the sea. They don’t spend a day indoors from one year to the next. Sadly, whilst it works for us, I suspect the drive is not there to develop co-operation between upland and lowland farmers on a large scale, and for many suckler herds, housing in cubicles or similar will make sense, but surely not in summer?

I don’t know if you saw on the news the other night that Grace Jones reached the exceptional age of 112. My initial reaction was “Blimey, she’s aged quickly” until I realised that it wasn’t the amazing diva and soul singer but a namesake. The secret to her longevity, Amazing Grace (as she is known to her friends) claimed, was to have a wee dram every night and crucially, not to worry. So, dear friends, let me leave you with this thought – don’t be a Slave to the Rhythm, rather live La Vie en Rose.