By Pat Wilson

The Scottish Holstein Club held its annual herds competition prize-giving last week – there was a great turnout of like-minded folk from around the country – and well done to us!

The Wilson family, of which I’m proud to be part of, won the title of 'Scottish Herd of the Year' for 2018. Hard work does pay off eventually.

There were other well know herds winning various accolades, including Parkend, Logan, Townlaw, Whattonvale, Overside and Firth. So, well done to everyone – not just if you were lucky enough to win something – but for taking part.

We were lucky enough to have the Holstein UK president, Peter Waring, speak to us about the dairy industry and what an interesting speech it was. I was speaking to him afterwards and the Brexit saga reared its head. He said that importing milk will be so expensive after Brexit, that we won’t be able to afford it and our home-produced product will be worth 40p a litre to our processors.

All I can say is bring it on! Fingers crossed this rolls out right across the industry and not just in milk.

Staying on the subject of Brexit, Michael Gove has guaranteed that agricultural funding will not be Barnett-ised and that rightly generous settlement that give Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales more than England will be defended. He also underlined in particular that the government will provide for all UK farmers, a greater guarantee of future funding than farmers anywhere else in the European Union.

It is welcome news that funding is guaranteed until 2022, whereas in the EU the current CAP is only to 2020. So, does that mean UK farmers have greater financial certainty than farmers anywhere else in Europe?

The notorious Barnett formula is used to allocate all other public spending on the basis of the human population of each of the UK’s devolved nations. All of this is good news, however the rest of what happens depends on whether there is a deal or no deal. We are less than five months away from one or other of those fates.

I make no apology for jumping on the vegan bandwagon yet again. Bullying has long been regarded as socially unacceptable, so why are we being forced to lie down to the vegan hate-mob intent on bullying anyone brave enough to disagree? Maybe I’m exaggerating but not a day seems to go by without vegans dominating the headlines.

At the moment, they only make up 1% of the population, however it appears to be gaining momentum and the increase in its popularity is causing alarming damage to public perception of our industry. Vegans are anti-farming and vociferously intent in bringing us to our knees. They claim how shocking it is how some animals are treated and how bad farming is for the environment.

Ok then let’s get rid of the whole industry and then answer me this and only this – what are we going to live on? Ah yes soya milk, pulses and vegetables. One of their favourite staples is mushrooms. What do you need to grow them? Manure!

The alternative is fertilisers which contain nitrogen-potassium compounds which don’t fit with their beliefs. Waitrose has bowed to vegan pressure and sacked their food writer, William Sitwell, for daring to mock vegans and suggesting exposing their hypocrisy.

Rather than defend their excellent editor, they chucked him on the scrap heap after caving in to these militants. Shame on you Waitrose, not just for this shameful behaviour, but for setting a precedent?

What they should have done was expose the incredible lies they are telling to damage an industry which farmers are doing their best to protect and defend. Defending your cause and portraying an entire industry unfairly are two very different things.

We are swimming against a tide that is becoming stronger and stronger and we need to do everything we can to make the differences clearer and combat the lies before there are more casualties like William Sitwell.

To my mind, the vegan movement adds strength to what the Royal Highland Educational Trust is trying to do. Better known as RHET, this charity works with farmers, teachers and businesses to provide the best possible learning experience for children and young adults. Never has there been a more important time for RHET and anyone involved in farming to promote what we’re about and how we go about it.

For my sins – or I’m an easy target for project co-ordinator, Carole Brunton – I host regular school visits. The most recent was earlier this week when 36 kids came from Strathkinness Primary. I do my best to help them (and their teachers) understand where their food comes from.

I am passionate about all aspects of farming and make no secret of the fact that dairying is at the top of that agenda. I am also passionate about the Scottish Countryside and think it is so important we raise awareness in schools. There are so many extremists out there trying to do us down, we need to counter their argument and fast.

Even if you can only host one visit a year, RHET needs you! It’s actually highly satisfying to watch how these children react to being allowed to touch calves, handle feeding and see how cows are milked.

The biggest challenge I’ve had so far was one teacher who argued that a cow didn’t need to have a calf to produce milk! To this day, I’m sure she doesn’t believe me. That’s all well and good for her, but the worrying part to it is she’s passing this on to school children.

Further afield, what a result in Cremona for the talented young stockswoman Alison Hunter from the renowned Letterkenny herd. She was chosen as part of the team to represent Holstein UK at the open junior show in Italy, last month. This show is recognised for its clipping, showmanship and stock judging competitions and Alison competed against more than 40 other competitors from across Europe, demonstrating her skills and knowledge at the international event.

She won the senior class of 15 young breeders and the week before was second senior handler at the All Breeds All Britain Calf Show, having been champion at our own Scottish Calf Show.

And, good luck to the three top class dairy farms competing for the AgriScot Scottish Dairy Farm of the year. I am in no doubt there are more than three top class dairy farms in the country, however these ones are lucky enough to have made it into the final three.

Also, good luck to everyone exhibiting at this year’s event. As always, I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure the quality and competitiveness will be as keen as ever. It is one of the highlights of the showing calendar which has a great atmosphere and buzz about it.

The judge, Kevin Wilson, from Warnelview, is no stranger to the show ring, having exhibited successfully and judged for many years. Kevin will take on a new task this year with the introduction of the 'any other breed' section. Get yourself along to this fantastic event.