Maybe Scottish farmers are lazy. Maybe they are stupid. A report released by the SRUC last month indicated that they were less productive than other countries such as France, Germany and USA.

Accepting that land quality and our northern climate may be in part responsible, it said that inappropriate management, low levels of technology uptake and lack of appetite to adopt more cost and resource efficient methods were primary factors.

If the report was correct, one must wonder why we are so backward. Do we disdain new technology, or is it that technology on offer lags behind that available to farmers overseas?

In 1982, when in North America, I was often made aware by scientists and geneticists of their high esteem of British research. Soon after my return, Mrs Thatcher’s government cut funding for near market research.

The immediate effect was to run down Experimental Husbandry Farms. Our nearest were Redesdale EHF, at Otterburn, and the East of Scotland College, at Penicuik. Both were doing excellent work on cattle, sheep and pasture improvement which was being enthusiastically taken up by farmers.

Around that time, I served on a government committee, the Scottish Agricultural Development Committee, which reviewed current R and D. Apart from one outsider, Henry Crawford, of the Farm Workers Union, the members of the committee were farmers. We gave our time freely because we felt we made a contribution.

After some years, we were told that changes were being made and that only two farmers out of 17 would remain. The others would be experts on conservation, health and safety and other issues with no skin in farming. I didn’t allow my name to go forward.

Without doubt our industry has suffered from the reduction in R and D, although this shouldn’t be taken as an excuse. At present the umbrella organisation for R and D is the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (ADHB).

Its website starts: “Our purpose is to inspire farmers, growers and industry to succeed in a rapidly changing world. We equip the industry with easy to use, practical know how which it can apply straight way to make better decisions and improve its performance”.

In April, I learnt that a review of the ADHB had taken place in 2018. The recently published report had recommended improvements and commented that some of its programmes were not well targeted.

Farmers pay a compulsory levy to the AHDB, which, in view of the patchy financial support voluntary organisations such as NFUS receive, is in my view correct.

My own recent contacts with the AHDB were the Ram Compare Programme and various seminars on improved grassland management. I await with interest the publication of the now overdue report on their Beef Feed Efficiency Programme.

The pioneering work on sheep and on pasture utilisation is, of course, not Scottish and is entirely based on research done in New Zealand and Australia. In every case, the techniques now being rolled out here have been standard practice in the Antipodes for decades.

The AHDB project which is of more than passing interest to us is the Beef Feed Efficiency Programme, as we have been working on feed efficiency at home for some time. The programme, in co-operation with Defra, the Scottish Government, SRUC, ABP and the British Limousin Cattle Society was started in 2015.

Stated estimated costs ranged from £560,000 to £1.75m. The objective such as 'agreeing industry wide protocols for measuring feed efficiency, taking and storing tissue samples for potential future genomic analysis, defining a blueprint for feed efficiency' etc were nebulous. They would simple duplicate work done in America over a decade ago whose results are widely available.

The Limousin society hoped to establish an EBV for feed efficiency. They tested 200 bulls, each with a minimum of eight calves out of various breeds of dam. This contrasted with work at the Midland Bull Test in Billings, Montanam where thousands of Angus bulls have been tested over a decade.

Without doubt, improving feed conversion is important in cutting the cost of beef production, however it must be recognised that UK research into beef systems will never catch up with research possible in the huge herds in America.

Part Two of the AHDB Beef Feed Efficiency Programme is due to start soon. One of its objectives is to identify the effect of improving food conversion on eating quality. I would be astonished if this information is not already in the public domain as it has been widely agreed that, unlike the tit for tat effects of every other breeding objective, feed efficiency doesn’t carry any downside.

The Limousin society hope to improve the accuracy of EBVs by expanding the genetic pool. This is praiseworthy but should, possibly with some assistance, be self-funded.

The AHDB do good work in disseminating information to farmers. Their seminars are well planned and the literature they provide is well written and easily understood. This is their strength, but it should be recognised now that it is impossible for us to duplicate large scale trials at the level of some other countries.

Projects such as the Beef Feed Efficiency Programme, where the outcome is historic before it begins, will never be cutting edge and our levy money should now be diverted to projects which benefit farmers directly.

Sir Peter Kendall, who retired last month after six years as chairman of AHDB, commented that our research places far too much emphasis on environmental policies at the expense of food production.

So, in contrast to 1982, when overseas opinion of British research was favourable, the comment now from those farmers and scientists who I meet is that they wonder how British farming can possibly be profitable due to the restrictions we have to bear in the guise of wildlife conservation, environmental issues and excessive bureaucracy.

The objective for AHDB should be to tailor science, even if from abroad, to suit farmers requirements. It is just as important that farmers become aware of the most up to date technology and, where appropriate, they use it.