I SINCERELY hope that good spell of weather we had last month wasn’t our summer – there’s nothing like some sunshine to put a smile on your face and lighten your step.

Alas the weather has come out in sympathy with Brexit … it doesn’t know what it’s doing! One minute it’s too hot to wear leggings; the next you need to look out your jacket and a toorie.

I don’t know about you, but it plays havoc with our calves. An even temperature with good airflow is a must. Unfortunately, stagnant air and damp weather make calves, particularly the younger ones, prone to pneumonia.

I’ve had to be extra vigilant when checking calves after each feed. Like anything, if it’s caught early, the outcome is so much different. How useful would it be to have a sixth sense to predict pneumonia?

The summer show season is well and truly underway and I can’t believe the Highland is just two weeks off, which always signals the halfway point in the year. They say time goes quicker as you get older … I must be really old!

We started our showing calendar at the Fife Show a few weeks ago and what a dismal, wet and horrible day it was. However, it didn’t seem to dampen the crowds as plenty of folks came through the gates.

Last weekend was West Fife Show. I am entries secretary for my sins. Enthusiasm was slow to start with but by show day what a tremendous show of livestock we had, leading to a successful and very competitive day.

We also had to be one of the luckiest local shows on earth so far with not a drop of rain, following two days of horizontal rain on the Thursday and Friday. Someone was definitely looking out for us.

The dairy section, as always, was well supported with a class of six second and third calvers and what a class it was. Good from the top of the line to the bottom. We always like to make sure the judge, in this case Alister Laird, from Blyth Bridge, works hard for their lunch.

The Wilson family were blessed when Witherslack Mincio Joanne was tapped out first and went on to be inter-breed champion.To top off what was a fabulous show, she also took the champion of champions title against a Limousin bull, a Blue Texel ewe, a Clydesdale mare and a goat.

The other cattle classes were extremely well supported too, especially the commercial cattle, with a new exhibitor to West Fife, Blair Duffton. He made the three-hour long trip from Huntly to add to a great line-up of cattle; the sheep numbers were disappointingly down a bit but there was a bumper entry of Clydesdales, with no fewer than 43. Well done to everyone who took the time to attend.

On a more sombre note, farm income is expected to decrease by 15% on the year. Dairy farm incomes are expected to fall to the level last seen in 2015. This is as a result of a fall in milk price.

This decrease is partly down to the pressure on farmgate prices, particularly in the dairy sector, but mainly as a result of the significant additional input costs, especially feed, to help get through an extremely challenging year weather wise. This sends a message to the government why future policy must contain measures to help farmers manage and mitigate volatility.

The only way we can invest is if we are in a position of financial stability. That alone is becoming more and more difficult as processors send mixed messages.

On the one hand, they are constantly encouraging us to lower our cost of production; yet on the other hand, they are actively discouraging spring calving on a grass-based system – the most inexpensive way to produce milk. Level supply producers need more than 26p per litre just to break even.

And, as if that isn’t enough, we are the butt of the European joke … aka Brexit! The threat of a no-deal Brexit is hanging over the industry.

The long-term fate of the UK dairy industry may well be decided in the next week or two, if our politicians can finally agree a way forward. Thrown into that mix of course is the election of a new Prime Minister.

Michael Gove, who has thrown his hat in the ring, is of course our Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The chair of the EFRA Select Committee said he has been paying close attention to Mr Gove’s ‘hard work’, suggesting he has left Defra in a strong position as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

He added that Mr Gove’s work on the Agriculture Bill is ensuring farmers can thrive after Brexit. Furthermore, he has demonstrated time and again that he truly understands the needs of our farmers and wants to see a productive and prosperous farming industry in this country.

If that’s the case, then he’s Prime Minster material as far as farming is concerned – and just who we need to fight our corner. Let’s hope it’s not just lip service.

No matter what the outcome of Brexit is, the dairy industry continues on a rollercoaster as things continue to change. In 1953, there were 8150 herds in Scotland; today there are 891 and yet milk production could well reach record levels for the 2019/20 year.

Farms will inevitably increase in size, but the number of producers is likely to fall further. It will be supply and demand in the market that seals our fate.

The UK is currently in the Top 20 of milk-consuming nations and it is up to us to keep it there. If we are to continue to create a demand for milk, we must unite and become a great deal more proactive in explaining the value of naturally produced milk in a well-balanced diet.

The best place to start this is in schools, with a focus on health – physical and mental – and diet. We, as an industry, should promote a Ministry of Food and Health, which could be a really powerful concept, lifting the value of food and reducing the cost of the nation’s health service.

This is even more of an argument today, with suggestions that our daily diet is a bigger killer than smoking and is involved in one in five deaths around the world. Pardon the pun, but we need to take the bull by the horns and push our product for all it’s worth, whether it’s through the media or on the side of a bus.

I am also a great believer and supporter of RHET (Royal Highland Educational Trust) and we must welcome school children onto our farms and educate them about where milk comes from and its benefits. It’s alarming in this day and age that you can ask a child where milk comes form and they say, the supermarket!

PS: I am reliably informed that Muller have pulled out of the Royal Highland Show for economic reasons. Should we be worried? Perhaps the money they save will go to a rise in the milk price? Or not!

I understand Genus has also pulled the plug on our national event.