I am starting off with an event that I do not think is given enough publicity, and that is the Ayrshire Young Farmers’'County Rally', held a month ago at Craig-Wilson’s Ayr Market, who also are the sponsors.

They have a full day of events, demonstrations, competitions and sports, with a large turnout of at least 3 generations present. One highlight is the suckled calf competition which has a unique format where two judges place them for supposedly different criteria.

John MacGregor placed them 'on the hoof' and I had the pleasure of doing it on the 'hook' which basically means carcase potential. In fact there was not a great deal of difference in how we placed all 69 calves, other than to say that it was one of the best shows of commercial cattle in Scotland this year.

My final line-up of the top 20 would do any show a great credit. However, the showring is only a small part of the competition at 20%, live-weight gain is 20%, gross profit 35%, and carcase potential is 25%. There are 20 rules governing this competition, an interesting one was that calves had to be bought at Ayr on October 11, or at Lanark on October 16, where they are weighed and tagged. After that, several factors are used to arrive at a winner.

First was H and N Thom, Goosehill, with an Angus cross (third on inspection), second was David Smith, Deaconhill, with a Charolais (inspection champion) and third, Scott Sutherland showing a Limousin – I later learnt, he is a grandson of my second cousin, the football legend, Craig Brown.

One thing this competition proves is that advice given 50-plus years ago by my then bank manager, Henry Graham, has not changed when feeding beef cattle – 1, it is not always the prettiest that leaves the best margin; 2, you make your margin the day you buy them; and 3, weight pays.

Now, if we analysed the top three, two were not at the top of their class, but the one at the top of its class was the heaviest in the competition of 69 calves. One disappointing aspect was that by my calculation they left on average £1.95p per day, which is not enough of a margin.

I attended the National Beef Event (NBA) held at Junction 36 on the M6, over two days. On the first day we had two interesting farm visits in Cumbria, the morning being spent at Netherhall, at Kirby Lonsdale, where there has been a change of policy from Limousins to Herefords. The last of this award-winning Limousin herd will be dispersed this summer to be completely replaced by Herefords, with the foundation stock coming from John Douglas’ Ervie herd, at Stranraer.

Almost totally, Australian and American Hereford genetics have been used – without any doubt it was by far the best herd of Herefords I have ever seen. They were moderately-sized cows with plenty of length and breadth, no patchy fat to be seen and docile to the extent that the tractors and trailers driving through them, did not stir them from chewing their cud!

The progeny showed the same traits, but the highlight from this 300-cow spring calving herd had to be a paddock of 50-plus 13-month-old bulls (and two donkeys) that had no cereals from birth and were going to be finished off grass at 600 feet above sea level before they were 16 months. The message from Nether Hall was – as it was for the two days, loud and clear from every speaker – native and grass-fed is the way to survive in the future.

If the first farm was thought-provoking, the second was mind-boggling. At 1000 feet above sea level, this rolling land was steep and had rocks protruding from excellent grassland, with no ploughing having taken place for at least 15 years. All reseeding was done every five or six years by direct drilling into heavily grazed swards.

This ex-dairy farm has, since 2004, carried 220 Stabiliser spring calving cows with fertility and calving ease about which many of you dream. For the first time, all bull calves have been kept entire and finished for sale to Morrison’s yearling beef scheme on a silage and cereal diet. This breed (mostly consisted of natives) has the reputation for quality beef with taste, succulence and flavour accepted world-wide, and is bound to have an excellent future, especially with any grading system changes – more of that later!

At Beef Expo itself, there was plenty room for everything involved in the beef sector, with seminars running from 10.30 to 4.30 and 16 speakers on a whole range of subjects. One highlight was Dr Stafano Vandoori, from Italy, stalking about eating quality, He said it was best if we slaughtered all cattle by the age of 15 months! That might apply to Italian breeds, but certainly not Scottish natives.

One of the best sessions was an open discussion on the future of the beef industry. On the panel were Chris Mallon, Andrew Laughton, John Geldard, Robin Manning and Richard Findlay and several aspects came up for heated discussion, most notably the current system of grading cattle – and yes, the EUROP grid got universal condemnation.

Some leaked information has since emerged that Defra is about to waste thousands of pounds, if not millions, on a consultancy firm called Hallmark Diagnostics to investigate EUROP’s future for the beef industry and tell us whether it needs changing, and if so, to what!

What a total waste of money! There are hundreds of beef producers in the country who have travelled the world and looked at various systems elsewhere, including many Nuffield scholars, who have all come up with the answer – use either the Australian or US grid. Since hearing of this, I have also been informed that the EU is looking into changing the EUROP grid – apparently Ireland is involved.

If EU Commissioner, Paul Hogan, is involved you can be sure something will happen. Look how he secured €100m for Irish beef producers because of Brexit – even though there might have been strings attached! Need I ask what Holyrood or Westminster are doing for UK producers?

I am also hearing of 'painful' figures for some milk producers, who are receiving less per litre for their milk than when the milk marketing boards ended in 1995 – then the average payment in Scotland was 26ppl. I am led to believe that milk is going into slurry tanks because of over producing for some buyers!

Is lamb any better, with a decker load of 500 lambs coming to £11,000 less than they were this week last year? And, dare I mention beef, where a decker load of 35 cattle is coming to £4000 less than this week last year – by the time you read this column, it could be closer to £5000.

Little wonder that beef cows are going off farms at an unprecedented pace, which begs the question, will Fergus Ewing’s increased calf support have any effect in halting the decline in cow numbers? Time will tell!

Maybe the only way to stop decline is to produce less, or for Scotland to join up with Ireland and we stay in the EU so that we can receive all the support that EU farmers are given? There could be a worse scenario if Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister (God forbid), and becomes Donald Trump’s best friend!

One of The Donald’s abattoirs could, in one day, kill more than what we in Scotland do in a week and I hate to admit it, hormone or non-hormone treated beef, you would find it difficult to send any steak back to the chef as inedible. I wish I could say the same here.

At home, we set a record for silage making when we started on May 19 – the previous 'best' being May 28 in the late 1970s, when we did three cuts! As we travelled to Junction 36 there were thousands of acres, either cleared or cut, with mid-May having excellent weather conditions for silage making. Unfortunately, since then it has been a little more 'catchy' for conserving our country’s most important crop, though the early silage should analyse well.

This week sees Scotland’s 'big event' take place, the Royal Highland Show. My first was at Alloa, but I remember Dundee in 1960, when my father bought a bull calf called Fleminghill Highland Monarch, which sired his Ayrshire champion at the 1964 show – and the memory will always linger of winning the Holstein championship 12 years later.

Hope to see you there.