It is that time of year again when you again reflect that the older you become, the faster the years fly past!

At one time it used to be said that one was lucky to reach three score years and 10, but nowadays there are many still enjoying good health at that age. Many of that generation would start in farming with, literally, no assets, were lucky to find a tenancy, and then followed by many years of hard graft.

I remember my father telling me about his start into farming, following his father, which was before World War II. His first employee cost £1-00 per week, plus his keep and so it is quite unbelievable how our industry has changed since then.

He thought he had seen vast changes in his lifetime, but I can say there have also been tremendous changes during my time in farming, as there will continue to be in the future. Looking back, I suppose the biggest change in farming history has been the move from horses to tractors and add that to all the technology that has come with them in recent times.

No longer is there just a clutch, gearbox, brake and hydraulic lever, plus a steering wheel. Every gizmo you can think of is in today’s cabs! Mind you, there are still many old tractors scraping passageways and doing farm yard work.

By the time you read this, we shall be nearing the end of one of the best years for farming in this part of the world, with almost perfect weather for our all grass farm. Let us hope it was not a one off, and we shall have several to follow. It may not have been the driest, but what was significant was not the amount of rain we had, but when we had it!

So, as we enter this festive period, may I wish all livestock keepers of all kinds, the best of luck. Let us hope there are not too many disasters!

I wonder how many people felt the hair rise up the back of their necks when they read the headline in The SF of December 15 'Caution over land tax'? This headline is just about as stupid as one 60 years ago when the then Labour Government said it would Nationalise all farm land! That, of course, never happened for obvious reasons.

Our land is already taxed in many ways. To add any more tax, or cost burden to Scotland’s land would decimate any hope of it producing food at a competitive cost. It would kill any hope of another generation wanting to farm Scotland’s land.

As I have said many times, the majority farm our land for the way of life and not the financial rewards. I presume the Scottish Land Commission is a Government quango created by ScotGov and obviously has the support of the current SNP-led government. If that is the case, then the SNP can kiss goodbye to any support at any election from rural Scotland. So, Nicola, you had better kill this idea at it’s embryonic stage, otherwise you will not have the support from any food producers of Scotland.

Having mentioned one politician, I thought it appropriate to follow on very briefly because there is no way I could match my colleague, Jim Walker’s contribution a few weeks ago, which was an outstanding article covering the political shambles in the UK. At every market that I have visited since, someone has commented on how much they enjoyed reading it.

I must admit I watch the pantomime on both the BBC and CNN and every now and again I turn the thing off in frustration at seeing the bunch of plonkers charged with running our country, especially that back-stabber, Jacob Rees-Mogg!

I am afraid my money is still on the people’s vote for three reasons:

1, The Cabinet cannot make up its mind;

2, Neither can the plonkers in Westminster;

and 3, It is what the EU wants in the hope the vote will be reversed, and solve the Irish border issue.

In Southern Ireland, milk production is running at 30% higher than it was when quotas were in place and rising. Now I do not know if there is any liquid milk crossing the Irish Sea, but I know that 50% of its cheese is flooding into the UK. This indicateS that our milk price will be under severe pressure soon.

Commentators were surprised that milk production did not drop further, especially in England, during the dry summer. The reason for that could be the fact that the majority of cows are on TMR all year round, thus reducing weather fluctuations, plus the ever increasing number of robots being installed, which increase yield. So, the flashing lights are on – steady production, or there is pain coming.

The same could be said for beef, which has been suffering pain for several weeks. Rising feed and bedding costs, coupled with a falling beef price does not make good bottom-line reading. Add that to what seems to be reduced consumer demand, the anti-beef lobby and Irish imports at a 10-year high, there is little wonder the sector is in pain.

It could get worse before it improves, especially with the number of beef calves from dairy cows entering the market, mainly from Ireland, where there are thousands of dairy-beef coming on to the market. In the near future that beef has to be exported somewhere and it does not take rocket science to work out the shortest route – with or without Brexit! So what happens if we are outside the EU? Will we be back to blockading the ports again in order to stop cheap beef pouring into the UK?

So is there an answer? Do we plant millions of Scotland’s upland acres in trees? Do we move back to native breeds and finish them on grass and silage at much lower weights? This will a great deal less Scotch beef available and it would become a niche market, with shop shelves being filled with lean, tasteless beef, and that will soon reduce the consumption of red meat. It seems that is what some scientists want anyway in order to reduce global warming.

I relived my youth this month having attended both the West Area and the National junior speechmaking finals. There is one thing for sure, our industry is not going to be short of speakers in the future as 27 performed in front of the judges, from Orkney to the South-west of Scotland, with nary a flaw in any of their speeches. The two Orkney teams were a treat to listen to with their distinct accents.

The subjects ranged from 'Meat and two veg,' from the third-placed team entry from Biggar. Second-placed Kilmaurs talked of the importance of migrant labour to the UK and the winners, from Avondale reported on 'I did it my way'.

Obviously, I was encouraged to attend these events as my grandson was proposing 'The family farm is the future of Scottish agriculture' for Crossroads. Being bred from several generations in Lanarkshire, I had to split my loyalties!

On my travels throughout the country during the last month of this year, winter crops are looking well, as is grassland, with sheep having some lush grass to graze right up until the end of the year with ground conditions remarkably dry.

As we go into the last of the teen years of this century, no matter what the vegan and do-gooders preach, I am going to continue enjoying BBQ's with Stabiliser, Belted Galloway, and Highland steaks, well covered and marbled, so with that thought as you read this article on the last few days of the old year, may I wish you good health, good luck and hopefully an enjoyable year ahead.