They say that there is a first time for everything – so this is the first time, in 37 years, that this article has been penned 30,000 feet above the Atlantic.

A team of 39 of us left Aberdeen some 10 days ago, but at the moment only 38 are returning as a certain Aberdeen cattle dealer lost his passport after arriving in the US and his friend Donald Trump does not want to let him back into Scotland (unless Bruce supplies him with some cheap cattle for one of his ranches!).

Eddie Gillanders, of journalistic fame, and his wife, Marion, organised this trip, with help from Gordon Phillip, who emigrated to the US as a teenager taking out cattle – and then stayed, nearly 60 years ago. Only ourselves and Jim Wilson, from Fife, were not from the North-east.

This was my sixth visit to the States in 40 years – three on Holstein business, then SMMB work, and the last two on beef research. I have enjoyed every one, for as soon as Americans hear a Scottish accent, you are treated like royalty.

We were centred in Montana, which borders Canada in the North-west. It has a land mass one and a half times the size of the UK and a population of 1m, which rises to 2m during the summer season because of the cooler climate. Rainfall is between 10 and 12 inches and snowfall from 2 feet to 6 feet, with temperatures at -40°C.

Normally, it has a five to six month winter with this spring being one of the wettest – lasting until we arrived on July 12. They are two weeks late with hay making, which is by far their largest crop.

It is the US’ largest cow-calf state, with relatively few finished, most going either south or across the border to feed lots in Canada. Some 90% calve in the spring, with 80% of the calves being black and the main breeds are Angus, Red Angus, Black Simmental, Stabiliser and Herefords.

It is a bull breeding state, with thousands of bulls sold throughout the US and semen sold worldwide, almost entirely A-A. Progeny testing has been going on for many years, with ultra scanning on the measurement of the rib-eye at the forefront.

Unfortunately, farmers there are in the same situation as we are in Scotland – losing money with their Choice Grade, which this week was at 343p/kg, at least 40p below where it needs to be! Their finishers, like us, are suffering severe pain.

The US kill per week is 500,000, with 100,000 of those being exported, mainly to the Middle East and China – 90% are hormone treated.

In spite of the same challenges we face from the vegan and veggie lobby, beef sales have increased by 2% over the last year and the credit for that is the same name that came up three years ago, Cara Lee, who heads up the promotional body for US beef farmers.

She has an outstanding ability and enthusiasm for the beef industry and as I mentioned then, she would be a greater asset to QMS than some of its projects!

The most educational non-farm visit was to the US’s largest super-market seller of beef, Costco. Not only is it the largest in the US but in the world.

Its beef manager answered every question we threw at him, with knowledge not only about his store but globally. He sourced his 45 sides per day from four different suppliers and his knowledge of how to achieve carcase balance was incredible.

The counter must have been at least 20 yards long, with two factors standing out – marbling and steak thickness, being about a third thicker than what we see in the UK. Counter beef costs were similar to our local Costco.

A subject that came up several times was 'carcase size'. Like at home, the cry from the supermarkets is for lighter weights. The impression was that they are looking at even lighter weights than in Scotland – around 350kg or less. That is when the challenges begin. How do you make a margin on such light carcases?

As I asked a few months back, do we turn the clock back 50 years and go back to native cattle finished off grass and silage? It is certainly the way that the US farmer is be going, but with the advantage of having alfalfa at his disposal.

Ultra-scanning came up many times, as they use it on the rib-eye for many reasons – heifers being kept for breeding, bulls at every stage, and prime cattle for slaughter. As I hinted last month, Defra if now about to waste £1.7m on a similar project, when the answers of what we need are already available elsewhere. Let common sense prevail!

Montana's Yellowstone National Park attracts visitors from all over the world, including 39 beef farmers for a day. Apart from the amazing trees, the River Canyon, the odd bison, elk, maybe a moose, the geysers spouting hot water 40 feet high, the highlight is to see a grizzly bear, so we were disappointed.

However, just a few miles out of the park, there he was grazing about a couple of hundred yards away, so the bus emptied, as did many cars, to picture this rare sight.

Our first farm visit was a two family operation, split between three ranches, totalling 190,000 acres owned and a further 50,000 rented. Cow numbers of 4500 with two bull sales per year of some 800, averaging just on $6000/bull and sold across the US. The average calf weaning weight is 340kg, or half the weight of the cow.

Their biggest challenge is predation by wolves, losing around 50 calves last year. Land values range from £2000 to £7000 per acre, depending on water availability.

Next day was a visit to two bull studs where some expensive bulls were housed, with one costing $190,000. Most were Angus, with one very good black Simmental.

A four-hour journey to our next farm near the Idaho Border was the Sitz Ranch, one of the most prominent and successful in the country with 2000 acres with water irrigation and 30,000 acres with no water. (Montana does not graze cows to the acre, it is acres per cow – anything from five to 30 acres per cow!). This ranch has been selling bulls and heifers for over 50 years and performance testing for almost as long. They calve 1600 cows which are all AI’d for four weeks, after which the bulls are turned in.

They sell 620 bulls and this is the ranch that also owns the $190,000 bull. Plus semen from another bull they own, they have sold some $4m of semen!

Next visit and one of the highlights, was to Dean Folkford, known as 'Mr Wheat'. His farm was two miles wide and seven miles long.

The machinery used is amongst the largest that John Deere produces – a tractor was 690hp with equipment behind it that can drill 600 acres per day.

His father bought the farm in 1941 and then young Dean and his wife bought the local bakery in 1990. It now makes 40,000 loaves per day that sell all over the States. With a restaurant attached, they employ 200 staff. The farm itself employs just two, plus three others harvest time.

It is without question the tidiest arable farm I have ever seen with a tool shed to die for and not a weed anywhere. Right at the end of our visit, he told us he had sold the bakery a few years ago (retaining an interest in it) and the 10,000 acres last week.No sale figure was mentioned but it must have been mega millions.

His next challenge is going into the tourist trade and his daughters already run three hotels!

More next time, but I will finish with Mr Wheat’s parting words: "If you want to make a million in farming, start with two." But he was grateful enough to his late father, whose ashes were spread on the farm, for buying this land in 1941 for about a $100 per acre.