THIS YEAR has started off just like 2019 – disappearing in a flash.

I’m still wondering where January’s gone and here we are, a week into February already. The one good thing about it though, is that the nights are getting lighter. Fingers crossed the weather lightens as well.

Well, there’s no turning now! Boris has done what he said he would do! After three and a bit years of faffing about we are finally Brexited.

Yes, there are those of you who were agin it, but we live in a democracy and more of us voted to leave than stay so that’s that. What we need to remember is that Common Agricultural Policy rules will still apply – the rulebook hasn’t been dumped on the scrapheap meaning CAP schemes won’t disappear and neither will current rules on cross compliance.

Just because we are negotiating new trade agreements doesn’t mean our friends from the department won’t turn up for an impromptu inspection.

There is no doubt existing rules need tweaked and simplified. On a more serious note, we can’t lose sight of the reputation we have built up for our products around the world, whether it be milk, beef, pork, lamb or whisky.

There is a decided lack of trust from farmers in the Government to protect food production standards. Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers has said standards are the backbone of our food and drink industry and they have promised to protect it. We need to make sure this is not just lip-service and that the NFU make sure of that, though it has already organised a mass rally in London on March 25 to lobby Downing Street.

We’re all aware that agriculture will need to adapt to the changing circumstances following Brexit, so maybe government will consider putting funding in place to enable farmers to do just that. We’ve already been told Defra is to spend around £7m on a new import control system for animals, animal products and high-risk food and feed before the EU Withdrawal Bill is passed.

That’s expected around April. New trade deals must not be allowed to weaken animal welfare, environmental or food standards. We have a reputation at stake here.

I made a diversion this week, away from the dairy sector, and visited the Stirling Bull Sales. It’s always good to meet people you haven’t seen for ages, catch up on ‘the craic’ and see how other sectors of the industry are faring.

One topic which raised its head on more than one occasion was the fact that cancer charities had been urging people to go vegetarian or vegan for a month.

NFUS was been quick to react, threatening to withhold donations to two national cancer charities, one of which MacMillan Cancer Support launched ‘Meat-free March’ encouraging participants to ‘stay strong and try not to think about burgers’. Not the catchiest slogan I’ve ever heard!

In an angry backlash, NFUS president, Andrew McCornick, stated how important it is that the facts are delivered around the role of meat, dairy and eggs in a healthy diet. I couldn’t agree more on what NFUS said and it’s regrettable the charities, which provide such a valuable service and are supported greatly by the agricultural community, appear to have been caught up in the recent ill-informed debate on livestock production, diet and climate change.

Both charities have said their campaign is short-term and Macmillan is ‘no longer actively promoting’ Meat-free March. It takes years to build a good reputation, but that reputation can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Short-term doesn’t mean it won’t do damage.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended one of the ScotEID roadshows, showcasing their ‘state-of-the-art’ system of electronic identification of cattle. In principle, the new scanning system to track and monitor Scotland’s cattle is a good one.

Who wouldn’t want to try and reduce the amount of paperwork we have to do, cut back on animal handling which in turn should prove less stressful for us and our stock and protect the coveted Scotch beef brand status?

BCMS, or CTS as we know it will disappear. It is costly to run and is out of date. It can’t read EID numbers, meaning all existing cattle would have to be renumbered and of course re-tagged!

From this summer, all births, deaths and movements will need to be done through ScotEID. It’s pleasing to know that Scotland is ahead of the game compared to England and Wales, however I can’t help feeling we’re the guinea pigs and they’ll learn from our mistakes.

One concern for me is that the proposed new system uses Ultra High Frequency scanning technology bringing greater benefits in its use and flexibility combined with Low Frequency technology which is more rigid and inflexible. However, England, at the moment, is going down the road of Low Frequency. Those at the meeting were reassured this would not cause problems for cattle leaving here and crossing the Border. Let’s hope so.

Through time, paper passports will become extinct as this straightforward replacement comes into being. At the moment, you can use your current stock of tags until it becomes mandatory to EID new-born calves.

That has been hinted at being probably by next summer and we were advised not to over order tags. You have been warned!

This is the biggest transformation in the system in almost 30 years, but it will only be successful if farmers are fully engaged in advance of its introduction.

The next wee bit would probably be better shared in The Raider. A few weeks ago, my husband and some cronies set off for the annual Swiss Expo. Six of them flew to Geneva and thankfully six of them flew home from what can only be described as a most memorable trip seeing fantastic cows.

I think though it might have been the blind leading the blind –Andrew (Wilson), Alister Laird, wee Jock Montgomery, Bryce Sloan, Hugh Woodburn and ‘Papa’ Shug himself, Hugh Kennedy. Can you just imagine the six of them loose in Switzerland, never mind an airport?

I happily booked all their flights and hotel rooms. All they had to do was turn up and remember their passports!

As they set off from Edinburgh, I really wished I was a fly on the wall, especially when I heard wee Shug had decided to try his hand at climbing up the downstairs elevator. Perhaps they haven’t reached deepest, darkest Ayrshire yet and he was just getting some practice in! You can take the man out of Ayrshire …

By the time this appears in print the Gold Cup winner will have been named at Dairy-Tech (which was held on Wednesday). Two of the six finalists are from Scotland – the Harveys, from The Drum, at Beeswing; and good friends of ours, the Sloans, from Darnlaw, Auchinleck.

Well done to both families for getting this far.