We are at the middle of January already – but before the festivities are a complete and distant memory, I must tell you about a most enjoyable day we spent at the Morris equestrian Centre, near Kilmarnock,which was organised by Stuart Muirhead, in aid of Doddie Weir’s motor neurone charity, My Name’5 Doddie.

The place was packed to watch a seven-a-side touch rugby tournament, with many teams in fancy dress of varying ages, all creating a Christmas atmosphere. I have to say it was much more entertaining than conventional rugby being extremely fast, no stops for scrums, no dangerous tackling and a pleasure to be indoors while the weather was so dreich and pouring with rain.

I would certainly go to watch it again, including the heavy weight race! Well done to all those concerned.

Now to my annual rainfall stats which not only interests me, but seemingly many others. With all this talk of climate change, one thing is for sure, it does not seem to be affecting the rainfall in the Northern tip of Lanarkshire.

Let us go back 30 years to the 1990s with a 10-year average 37.75 inches, the 2000s average of 38.0 inches and the 10 years just finished 37.75 inches. The wettest in that 30-year period was 2002, with 49 inches and the driest was 2003 at 25.75 inches. Incidentally, in the so-called wet year of 1985, I recorded 48.5 inches.

One aspect about our rainfall that is changing is that we are getting almost the same amount of rain in the summer month period as we do in the winter time. Another possible change comes from my two rain recording colleagues in the east, one from Forfar, recording 38.6 inches, and one in the very South-east at 35.25 inches this year – showing little difference from the historical ‘wet’ west!

The grading system of cattle in this country is a subject close to my heart and has been for many years, of which I have been very critical, particularly after our recent visits to the US. I felt after our trips that if we did not change quickly, we would not have a beef sector left.

A few weeks ago I had a phone call from a beef farmer friend telling me to ‘Google’ up a Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust Report, sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Butchers, on carcase grading and payment systems to improve the eating quality of UK meat.

It was done by Caroline Mitchell and it was by far the most comprehensive piece of research I have ever read clarifying why the UK needs to change. Do not expect to do it in a few minutes, as there are more than 60 pages of compelling reading, not only covering beef but also pigs and sheep.

This lass should be on every beef industry platform in the country, whether you are a breeder, finisher, processor packer, supermarket or butcher, plus consumers. Caroline is in the same league as Cara Lee, from the US, who so greatly impressed our group of beef farmers from Aberdeen a few years ago.

To whet your appetite for more information by watching her on YouTube, here are Caroline’s six conclusions, which will take your mind off all this crap about vegans and vegetarians, tell you about how wonderful meat is and not only to eat but that it is good for your health!

1, The current system of carcase classification used in Great Britain is completely outdated and is holding back the development of the industry by failing to adequately communicate consumer demand back to the processors and producers.

2, Currently, red meat producers are being rewarded for producing large quantities of lean meat which is, as a result of that leanness, often dry and flavourless, providing an unsatisfactory eating experience.

3, Because of the current payment systems in place, all business drivers are geared towards producing a lot of meat cheaply.

4, The current carcase classification and grading system does not prepare the UK adequately for competition on the global market.

5, Without measuring meat quality, we cannot manage meat quality.

6, If aspects of Meat Standards Australia were combined with the USDA system, it would result in a comprehensive and robust system. If it is possible to adopt these for pigs as well as sheep and beef, in conjunction with making the assessments wholly objective, this is the route for which we should aim.

Foot note to conclusion 6 – ‘While the MSA system is extremely comprehensive, it does not assess texture and firmness like the USDA system does. While there is not much evidence to suggest texture and firmness correlates well with eating quality or consumer acceptability, the Japanese grading system measures this too and, with the Asian market being one of the main ones for growth in the next few years, we should at least have some way of ensuring the product meets their specifications.’

Here is the average deadweight price paid for beef in Scotland for the last eight years excluding any premium paid for native breeds – 2012 – 354.6 p/k; 2013 – 399.3; 2014 – 359.8; 2015 – 360.5; 2016 – 351.1; 2017 – 372.9; 2018 – 373.1; and 2019 – 339.6 p/kg!

These stats clearly show why the Scotch beef sector is in crisis with almost £50m being taken out of it, compared with the year before. There is little wonder that overdrafts to this sector are rising and if values do not improve soon, the beef sector in Scotland, by this time next year, will be a shadow of what it is today!

I have tried looking into my crystal ball as we enter a new year to try and see what the year ahead may bring for Scotland’s farming sector! Well, I can tell you, it is nigh impossible!

Who would have thought that pig and lamb values would be where they are today? The predictions for these two sectors stated gloom and doom for them 12 months ago!

Who could have predicted that cereals, milk and especially beef, would all be at crisis level. A friend in the east told me I did not need to worry about potato and veggie growers, and the poultry sector lives under the radar!

If you believe anything coming out of the Westminster government on farming, you must be on another planet . However, I hope I am wrong! One thing is certain, there will be some bad news and some good. Just hope you are in the right place at the right time with a little luck.