WELL THIS autumn certainly won’t go down as the best season farmers had in 2019 – apart from the dreich weather, there has been blow after blow to the industry.

Firstly, a bid by local farmers to save Campbeltown Creamery from closure failed. First Milk put the plant up for sale in April, last year, saying 'it wasn’t core to its business strategy'. Around 30 members of the dairy co-op launched an online crowdfunding campaign to help them buy the business, however the buyout failed to go ahead.

Apart from anything else, it’s extremely sad that the Mull of Kintyre brand will no longer be on supermarket shelves. The one good thing is though nothing has changed in respect of collection. FM will continue to collect and pay for Kintyre milk on the same basis as before.

Hard on the heels of Kintyre, Müller announces it was to introduce a levy for milk transportation. As I alluded to last month, the company was warning there was 25% over production and that this would be the most likely outcome. Now, here we are facing those charges.

The company claimed a scaled transport charge will offset the cost of moving surplus Scottish milk to England. They’ll look at what you’ve produced in 2019, compare it to 2017, and then assess what you should pay – so those who’ve expanded will be worse off.

Costs will range from 0.25p per litre up to 0.85p, which amounts to a significant cut in income from February next year. To add insult to injury, it’s just five years since Müller's then chief executive, Ronald Kers, said they would be the UK’s No 1 processor. He encouraged greater milk production in his aim to knock Arla off top spot.

They say bad news comes in threes and indeed it rang true when 14 producers in Aberdeenshire were told to look for a new buyer for 2020. Equality is high on today’s agenda, but where’s the equality here? It appears that we are being penalised for living in Scotland and worse still, if you happen to live in rural Aberdeenshire.

Our American cousins are also facing uncertainty where the dairy industry has become a product of its own free-market success and regrettably is leading to its demise. The reason? Simple – production is higher than demand.

Ironically, the US dairy industry had a bumpy ride during the previous decade, but had recovered by 2014, resulting in record high milk prices. So, what do you do? You increase cow numbers, sell more milk and take advantage of market prices.

More than 6% of producers have quit in the last year, though production continues to increase year-on-year as herds get bigger and expansion replaces any shortfall. Oversupply has now forced down milk prices to unsustainable levels and the average farm is haemorrhaging financially.

Scotland’s dairy sector is on a 'knife-edge', according to a survey of industry confidence released at AgriScot, last week. You don’t say!

The results of the survey were revealed by the Scottish Dairy Hub and Kite Consultancy. Of the 125 people who responded, more than 60% of dairy farmers said they are ‘not so confident’ or ‘not at all confident’ about the direction the Scottish dairy industry is going in.

Just more than 15% said that they were ‘extremely confident’ or ‘very confident’. A third have no confidence to invest in the short term, while another third say they were confident to invest. The rest of those questioned fall somewhere around the middle.

Believe it or not, there was reasonable optimism among us for life post-Brexit – 60% of us think our businesses will be about the same or better off after Brexit.

Staying on the thorny issue of Brexit. It has fallen somewhat under the radar as we gear up towards the general election in less than a fortnight, but Jeremy Corbyn has said if he wins power, he will take a 'neutral stance' on Brexit – ie he won’t promote staying or leaving.

I always thought the whole point of being a politician was that you took a passionate stance in what you believed in and campaigned for it but didn’t sit on the fence. He’s King of that!

My best friend, Nicola Sturgeon (not), said she’ll support Mr Corbyn in return for another independence referendum. Whoop-de-do, two referendums in one year –can’t wait! You better sharpen your voting pencil as there’s the distinct possibility of three chances to use it within a year, first on December 12 and then twice in 2020. Whatever way you go, as an industry we need to vote for the party who will give adequate support and leadership to agriculture which, in turn, will see the sector thrive.

I don’t know about you, but calf rearing has been challenging over the past few days with the weather, which can only really be described by that good old Scottish word, dreich. I always walk through the calves, twice a day, every day, looking for signs of pneumonia.

Prevention is always better than cure and anyone watching from afar would think I was completely off my head as I stand and stare at some of the stock. Is it, or isn’t it? (heaving I mean). Thank goodness for Draxin and Metacam.

The shows are done and dusted for another year with both AgriScot and LiveScot having come and gone in the past week or so. Earlier in the month, I was reliably informed numbers were down on the year for AgriScot, however when the date came around numbers seemed to be fairly healthy with a great display of quality cattle, as always. Well done to all the prize winners.

It’s always good to welcome foreign judges to our lands to show them the quality of our cattle. This year’s man in the middle came all the way from New Zealand. An entertainer, he certainly was.

I make no apology for ending on a sombre note. Charities have said that farmers are increasingly at risk of suicide owing in part to uncertainty over Brexit and the impact of bad weather. Distressed farmers have made dozens of calls to crisis networks and some have been placed on 'suicide watch', according to the NFU.

The Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institute says it’s dealing with increasing numbers of cases. Livestock farmers, in particular, are struggling to cope with winter feed bills and the additional cost of housing livestock.

We should be concerned about the number of telephone calls made by worried farmers, but the greater concern as amongst those who don’t ask for help. We all have a duty of care and greater emotional support is going to be needed.

Please keep an eye out for friends, neighbours and family.