I've penned this a little earlier this month as my 'typist and sub-editor', Jesme, will be 'down under' to visit her long time friend, Margaret Griffies, who emigrated to Australia 16 years ago with her late husband, Henry.

Both were well-known faces in the Holstein world many years ago. Hopefully, Jesme will have some interesting tales to tell in the December column about how farming is faring in Aussie!

Our last visit was when I judged Adelaide Show in 1985 and spent two weeks selling 250,000 straws of semen from Springwells Highland Laddie, a son of the great Holstein cow, Radar Jean from that era.

Amazingly, there is a little good news! To the surprise of most spring suckler calf sellers, the drop in returns was not quite so bad as expected, with the overall consensus being on average, £30 per head.

A few were actually up but that was largely due to heavier weights helped by a good grass growing year and there were less numbers sold. Other factors were the arrival of the BPS cheques, plus seasonal buyers looking for cattle to fill their courts.

That said, with the current uncertainty in prime values, plus the fact that so much beef is pouring in from Ireland, there is more likely to be a downward movement in store and prime cattle values. Couple that with the circus at Westminster, where the clowns are still making fools of themselves, and we have a continuing uncertainty we could do without.

I became a European farmer way back in the 1970s and intend to remain so. Since Government can’t make up its mind, let us have another referendum, now that we have the truth, as opposed to all the lies we were told in 2016.

Back to beef, now that we are into the 17th week of no price change, which, incidentally, is some 81p/kg below what it was in November, 2013. That comes to almost £9900 per decker load – ie 34 cattle less – and for someone sending a load per week, that adds up to over £0.5m per year less. Yet, the price of beef to the consumer is either still the same as it was six years ago or, in some cases, more expensive!

All my farming life, like every other farmer, I have been told to cut costs and become more efficient. I get the feeling from many that they cannot tighten their belts any more and have reached exasperation point. Hence the reason we are seeing so many leaving the industry.

Scotland’s farm borrowing has doubled in the past 10 years and still we are producing too much food with supermarket shelves laden with every conceivable product.

What is the answer to our industry’s dilemma? Do we continue producing like the rest of the world and get deeper into debt, running to stand still? Or, with some very significant changes taking place in the beef sector, particularly with regards to reduced carcase size, has the time come for more radical change, not only in breed size but in how we feed them?

To have conformity, I feel we have too many breeds. The chances of reducing that are slim because we Scots are so independent and all want to be different. Getting unity in the type and shape of cattle to suit the customer would be impossible.

Just come with me for a couple of weeks to the store markets I attend and you will see the extremes of cattle going through auction. In contrast, go to one in US or Canada and you would think they were all clones, not only in shape but also in colour.

One thing that will change soon is the size of the cattle and how we feed them. The day for those massive bulls are gone and we need to make Kerseknow Festival (rem,ember him?) our true type model bull and paint him whatever colour you like, and then breed them all that size and shape!

Finishers no longer have a store period. They are either grazed on dairy type grass, or fed dairy quality silage, with some energy supplement. Grass in all it’s forms, well-managed, has to be the basis of how all types of beef cattle are kept if we are to have a sector that has any hope of surviving.

The other change that many people will not like is more use of native breeds that can utilise grass and silage more efficiently. This fact was demonstrated at Stirling Bull Sales, which suffered from the same problem as almost every other sector in our industry. Too many!

How that reduction takes place is another challenge, but it might need to be by as much as 30% or more.

However, for me, it was not a bull that was the star this time at Stirling, but a Shorthorn heifer from Jack Ramsay. She has to be one of the best Shorthorns I have ever seen.

As was expected, the main bull sales were going to be tough given the state of the beef sector and with no sign of improvement as imports keep flooding in and the anti-meat lobby continues to be vocal, abusive and aggressive. Especially worrying is the message our senior school young adults are being told every day by many school teachers and opinion formers.

From Stirling, I must mention Bobby Paterson who has been, unobtrusively tidying up with his bin bag, and in his kilt, for as long as I can remember, not only at Stirling, but also for many previous years, at Perth. Long may he be fit to keep doing it, with his cheery chat.

All my farming life, three things have been close to my heart – grass, milk and beef, probably because, in my part of the world, our land is best suited to growing grass, which we certainly can grow in abundance. Best utilising it has always been a challenge, however.

The three best routes are through dairy cows, beef and although I am not a lover of sheep, we do use them to keep the place tidy and to prevent winter kill. However it is milk I want to zero in on.

Like every other sector, it's had its ups and downs. Dairy farming had a tough time way back before the milk marketing boards were formed in 1933, followed by a long period of stability up until the late 1970s and early '80s when we were producing way too much, before quotas were introduced in 1984.

Back then, we had a 9% production cut, followed fairly soon by a 5p/litre rise and a reduction on hard feed costs. Milk production was profitable then.

Thatcher ended the MMBs in 1995, resulting in near chaos and volatility. The last nose-dive was only a few years ago, but we are now on the brink of another one!

Grahams had too much milk this past spring and introduced a form of quota; Muller has just fired the warning shots across producers’ bows recently because there is too much milk around and they have to haul it south for processing as there is not enough capacity in Scotland. Some producers are already seeing a 5p/litre difference between supermarket contract prices and their non-contract returns.

That means some incomes are back to what they were receiving when the MMBs ended! So, what is the future?

I am afraid it is back to 1984 and some form of supply management. I have not even touched on Ireland’s 30% increase in production since the end of quotas – where is all that product going to go after the clowns decide where the border is to be?