I wish I could have a pound for every time I have been asked, since January 6, why the store value of livestock cattle is rising so much?

Historically, it has always risen for a week or so after the festive period and then it settles back to where it was prior to that. Not so this year!

By the end of January most categories of store cattle were £50 to £100 above autumn values, which means that suckled calf producers are receiving higher returns than they were expecting, prior to New Year. Just take the Aberfeldy sale at UA on February 13, where a pen of Charolais 10-month-old steers, weighing 400kg made £1100 apiece! The sale average for steers was 227p/kg.

Even if the deadweight price reaches £4 per kg, a group of us at the sale could not see how these £1100 cattle would leave any margin. What is causing this confidence in store values?

I can only guess at the following reasons:

  1. There are more cattle buyers around the store auction rings than there is cattle to meet their requirements;
  2. Empty courts and yards following the Xmas clear out;
  3. There is plenty of feed, particularly fodder, available;
  4. If these beef finishing farms stop buying cattle, how will they survive on these basic livestock farms, that have been doing a good job for generations?;
  5. In my 50-odd years of beef finishing cattle there has always been volatility in returns, but I have to admit this is the longest downturn, with low margins, that I can ever recall.

As farmers we always hope that things will get better, which is another reason why store cattle values are higher than we finishers would like them to be. They are not relative to the deadweight price which is at its lowest in almost 10 years.

This might be acceptable if the costs of production were the same as 10 years ago! There is no doubt that there are fewer cattle in the UK than there were 50 years ago.

The other night on TV I came across a debate in the House of Lords, on climate change and the effect livestock was having on the climate. I did not have a pen handy but I was amazed at the figures he rattled out, about the decreasing number of cattle now in the UK today compared to 50 years ago, which was justifying an argument that livestock were not to blame for global warming!

Perhaps there is a dream that the beef values will mirror the prime lamb returns, which, if you had been able to predict those returns, six months ago, you could have, in farming terms, made a small fortune today.

I had a call from a friend who has just received a record price for prime lambs (hoggs), at Longtown Market of more than £120 per head. I am told prices may yet increase!

The lamb price is one that no one could have predicted in their wildest dreams and all caused by circumstances outwith the control of any farmer, processor, or retailer. The big question is, could it happen to the beef sector?

It happened before when Horsegate hit the headlines, when deadweight values hit almost 430p/kg. We are now down to almost £1 per kg below that peak and yet the price on the supermarket shelf has hardly changed.

So that is the challenge my Farm View colleague, Jim Walker, has undertaken – ‘Change’!

Jim is going to be surrounded by 20 and 30 year olds, so I am looking forward to how this tiny wee dot on the world map called Scotland, which is largely a grass growing country, can change enough to have any effect on the climate worldwide. One notable difference at the Stirling Bull Sales was that the Aberdeen-Angus and Shorthorn sale rings were packed, compared to an almost half empty Limmy sale ring! I was also conscious of several historical Continental bull buyers now purchasing natives.

I was not at the Luing sale at Castle Douglas, but reports told me it was buoyant, with a new breed record of 25,000gns. The pictures showed plenty of good hairy bulls that suit our wet climate and if we get a change to our out-dated grading system, they could play a large part in Jim Walker’s climate change programme.

Are we turning the clock back 50 years to grass and silage fed cattle or back 70 years when I went on holiday to my uncle, Jimmy Orr, at Brunty, Burrelton, where the bullocks were fed hay, straw and turnips?

To some better thoughts. I cut my lawn on February 6, which means I have just missed January so far this winter, and the grass in nearly every field is waving in the wind. Our snowdrops and daffodils are showing their faces but they are certainly getting a fair soaking from all this rain that is falling this weekend.

Fortunately we have had no geese this past week, probably due to the high winds and rain. As long as we do not have any snow I will be quite pleased with our winter.

Should I mention politics? I probably shouldn’t, so Jesme is censoring the following!

Most of you will be aware that I am no fan of Bojo. I think he may be worse than Trump, as he at least, has some business knowledge, and Johnson has none. He has yet to prove to us all that he will fulfil the promises he made before the election. However, he did one good thing when he removed Theresa Villiers as Minister of Agriculture, and replaced her with George Eustice, who at least has some knowledge of agriculture, being a farmer’s son from Cornwall.

I have a new hobby at night. Instead of watching football, I have been tuning in to the politics Channel and CNN, which is mostly American politics. If I were to weigh up the three Governments – Westminster, the US and Holyrood – on balance, the most common sense comes from Holyrood!

I do not often watch the House of Lords. Speeches are too long-winded and too many are there for the gravy train. In fact the country could save a great deal of money by doing away with half of our politicians.

However, we do have some good people who have the interests of our country at heart, who work tirelessly for the benefit of their constituents. My Star this week is the lass who took over from Derek McKay, the new finance minister, Kate Forbes, who did a brilliant job of delivering the Scottish budget at the last minute.

One of Bojo's commitments was to ban livestock exports. I wonder what they would do with him in Ireland, where last year, they live exported 300,000 animals, including 200,000 calves. The calves went mostly to Holland and Belgium, with the older cattle going to Egypt and Libya.

Even the Irish Prime Minister had been to Holland to see how the calves were handled and is delighted with what he saw. It might be a good idea if Boris spoke to his Irish counterpart and learn a little about how important it is that we can export to the continent.

Is he going to stop all our island crossings of cattle by boat, which in some cases is longer than it is to Ireland, and a vital route for both cattle and sheep?