Finding good news is, to say the least, a little difficult, as we come to the end of March.

However, let’s start with the rainfall – yes, the highest February recorded in the past 30 years at 8.25 inches and if I add January, we have a total of 12.5 inches – by far the highest for the first two months I've recorded.

Last year, we had 2.75 inches for the same period, which means that already this year we have had almost a third of our annual rainfall in the first two months! Hence the reason that I am hopeful of a prolonged dry spell – like this week.

Good news is the drop in bank interest rates and the Budget not being all bad with no change to the red diesel rate and no change in inheritance tax rates, both having been hinted at to change! If the rumoured change on inheritance tax had taken place, it would have been the total destruction of family farming as we know it.

One aspect of the budget that will not be welcomed by some, is the change to the Agricultural Flat Rate Scheme (AFRS). Large beef finishers in the UK who have operated under this VAT scheme in recent years are likely to find themselves excluded from it, starting January 1, 2021.

As part of last week’s budget, British Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced that the scheme will be amended to incorporate new entry and exit rules. It means that only those with a turnover below £150,000 can join, and once turnover goes above £230,000 they must de-register from the scheme. That will have implications for large beef finishing businesses, many of whom will easily cross the £230,000 threshold.

Under the current scheme, they cannot claim VAT on inputs but to compensate for that, can charge 4% VAT on outputs sold to VAT registered businesses (such as a meat plant), who then claim repayment from HMRC.

On a steer worth £1300, the 4% VAT claim is worth £52. The scheme works for a beef finisher as the main input cost is feed, which is zero rated for VAT in any case. Changes to the scheme once the UK left the EU had been expected. It was originally set up by the EU to remove the administrative burden of VAT on small farmers.

My view of the budget was that one could have expected this spend, spend, spend by the Chancellor to come from a Labour administration, rather than a Tory Government. What has happened since then is literally mind boggling in every way.

Any of my comments on Covid 19 are bound to be overtaken by events between now and publication day. But, sadly, it does seem certain that many businesses will go bankrupt with many people being made redundant, through no fault of their own and they all have my deepest sympathy.

There were some interesting statistics that came from this crisis on the TV the other night, which was the vast reduction on pollutant gases going up into the atmosphere, affecting climate change, as a result of fewer vehicles in our large cities, not to mention the thousands of aircraft parked up at airports. And we livestock farmers have been blamed for the so-called climate change?

Here’s a thought! Take the average garage, bed it with straw for two or three cows, sleep beside them on a folding bed, feed and water the animals and all will wake up nice and cosy in the morning. Now, put the car in the garage, leave it running and sleep overnight – you certainly won't wake up, because you would be dead from the fumes! So who is to blame for climate change? It’s certainly not cows.

Speaking about cows, what is the reason for the continuous decline in our suckler cow herd numbers? I think it is a combination of factors.

One might be economic and another may be much smaller farming families compared to even just the previous generation, where the average farm may have four kids. Today it could be two, and how many of them want to farm?Take the 10 neighbouring farms to me, only three have successors who want to farm.

I know that continental breeds have had a massive influence on our beef sector in recent years. Unfortunately, it has not all been good news, with them being costlier to keep, some have temperament issues, and need calving assistance because a live calf is of the utmost importance. No live calf, no income!

So, maybe there are just not enough people interested in keeping suckler cows, no matter of what breed or cross, but the fact that there is no just reward for all the dedication given to this occupation cannot encourage the next generation to carry on beef farming.

The next question is, are there going to be any finishers left in business in 12 months time to continue the job of fattening cattle at current margins? There is no doubt that since the processing industry got into so few hands, any margins that were possible, have gone.

I know of several who are asking themselves, is it worth all the work and effort for such small returns? With the current prime beef price where it is, there must be grave doubts if any store cattle, bought since the turn of the year will leave any profit. Since the demise of the three-crop rule, I certainly know that several grass fields in the 'rule' will go under the plough and into cereals instead.

Where is the government 'advisor' that said the UK could survive without any farmers and rely on imports? Did he not realise that the UK is only around 62% self sufficient in food supplies. The reality is that, with this Covid 19 now rampant, we are on the brink of a food crisis.

Some supplies will be maintained, but there are many where the logistics of getting them across the Channel will, to say the least, be challenging. What about the Irish Sea? – 52% of Eire’s beef comes into the UK.

Could it be that more supermarket shelves will be bare in the days and weeks ahead? Maybe the time is not so far away when that advisor will need to eat his words, because that's all there will be left for him to eat!

I attended the QMS 'MEAT: The Future', conference recently. It was a well organised and smoothly run event. My guess is that just over half who attended were actually practising beef producers and no more than a handful of the largest beef finishers were present.

My stars of it was the lass who chaired the day, Claire Taylor; James Withers, chief executive of Scotland’s Food and Drink; and Dr Rod Polkinghorne, from Australia, who gave an excellent over-view of the Aussie meat standards that focus on consumer eating quality. Frederico Stanham ,from Uruguay – the smallest country in South America – told us that it had a population of 3.4m and 12m head of cattle, with 65% of beef production servicing export markets.

Finally, as mankind and the world’s population face an unprecedented challenge to stay alive and healthy, it begs many questions as to how the planet earth will cope with an ever growing number of humans on it’s surface? Travel is probably the most notable, making the world so small that viruses like the current one, can be global in just a few weeks.

Who knows what the next one will be, that just might wipe out half the world’s population? Hopefully, there will be lessons learned from this epidemic so that we can better control the next one!