DARE I mention it? I have been asked so many times this past week about my rainfall that I have to report that as of September 12, it was 36-inches, or 92cm.

My 30-year average is 38-inches and we still have 3½ months to record, so 2020 in our area is certainly not going to go down in the history books as a dry year, despite of having one of the best springs I can recall. All that ended on June 21 and we have rarely had more than two dry days together since.

All our stock have been housed recently, with sheep everywhere, trying their best to keep on top of an abundance of grass. Of the five dairy farms close to me, three have been housed in the past two weeks.

Forty years ago there were 34 dairy farms in this parish of North Lanarkshire. Though I will not be here to see it, I wonder if there will be any left in another 40 years?

With fewer successors wanting to milk cows, it makes one wonder what the future of farming will be like by then, or will the northern tip of North Lanarkshire be all under bricks and mortar. At the speed that houses are being built at the moment, it looks like a real possibility.

No matter where one travels in the Central Belt, farms are disappearing for housing at an ever increasing rate and yet our population is static! A few weeks ago, my neighbour was highlighted in this paper about rubbish being tipped on his land, which cost him over £2000 to clear up.

This has always been a problem but it has increased dramatically during lockdown. Sadly, it is a culture issue in this country that somehow we need to change, but it is not going to change quickly.

At last we are at beef values that leave a margin for prime cattle. It is two years ago since we were last in this position! Just look at the three-year graphs in this publication to tell the true story of this sector.

I was asked how I thought beef finishers had survived over the past 24 months? I think I could summarise it with five reasons that apply to both breeder finishers, that account for 30% of prime cattle, and finishers – 1), A few would have reserves; 2), A dramatic drop in capital expenditure; 3), The same for repairs; 4), Machinery changes put on hold; 5), Increased bank borrowing.

There has also been a change in the ratio of pure beef cattle to an increase in dairy beef as a result of supermarkets terminating the slaughter of dairy bull calves. The big question is – will current returns continue?

That will depend on the big three Irish processors, which are in total charge of the value of prime cattle throughout the UK and Ireland. No doubt they will try and drop the returns to primary producers as soon as they can, but that will depend on supply and demand.

As I said last month, the firming of the beef values was driven by the demand because of fewer people going on holiday overseas. To some extent that should continue due to Covid-19, unfortunately, not disappearing.

My hunch is – and it is only a hunch – there is not an abundance of prime cattle on farms today because everything that has been fit, has been marketed due to the better returns. In other words, the industry is on top of ‘ready’ cattle. The same can be said of store cattle, with higher numbers sold in July and August, leaving less for later sales.

With the rise in Covid-19 it is certainly causing frustration in the farming community, especially within the current YFC generation. We have three grandkids in the greatest youth organisation in the world, who were certainly expressing their disappointment in no uncertain terms a few nights ago.

Thinking back to my era, I guess I was lucky because I turned 17 during the Suez Crisis, when Prime Minister Anthony Eden relaxed the necessity for a qualified driver to sit beside a learner, which meant that as soon as The SF came on a Friday, the first page I looked at was to see what dances were taking place on the Saturday night.

On the rare occasions when there were none, I was bound for the Locarno, in Glasgow, or the Pavilion, in Ayr. So, we can all understand why the young ones are unhappy at being curtailed.

The same can be said about those who attend auction markets, but it seems to me that different rules apply in almost every market I have either watched on the laptop, or attended to purchase for others who could not appear for various reasons.

Now to the elephant in the room ... Brexit. Thank goodness we have a devolved government who understand the implications of ‘no deal’. Since Holyrood was established, we’ve had some excellent farm ministers and now Fergus Ewing, who is doing an grand job despite frustrating circumstances emanating from Westminster.

We are certainly witnessing a disorganised bunch of dreamers running the country. I have spoken to a few friends in England about their new CAP, now called Environmental Land Management Scheme – (ELM). It appears to be an absolute shambles in the making, with Defra officials operating like headless chickens – and some Westminster MPs are little different.

Now, to tree planting in Scotland. I, for many years, have been puzzled why we do not plant more trees. Only recently, I travelled through a large area of Southern Scotland where millions of trees could be planted on land that currently produces nothing, with neither sheep nor cattle in sight. Why are there objections from anyone on this?

Planting trees on all this unused, unproductive land is certainly not going to affect food production, as it has not been utilised for many years. Surely planting trees that will be required in, say, 40-years’ time would be good for the environment.

Another issue that could be passed to Holyrood, before you read this, is Fergus’s Bill on retaining the current farm support until 2024, by which time the shambles in England will be unfolding and that is intended to reduce farm support to as little as possible.

Their intended aim is to import cheap food from anywhere in the world! One thing seems to be clear, one cannot believe or trust one word coming from this Johnson administration, particularly relating to agriculture.

If we in Scotland are concerned about the Brexit outcome, spare a thought for our neighbours across the Irish Sea, who depend so much on the UK market for their exports, particularly beef, which is threatened to be replaced by beef from Australia, New Zealand and the US. This will leave Ireland in a vulnerable position.

How will the three large Irish processors, who currently control the whole of the UK and Irish market, react to the new situation come January? Johnson could ban all UK live exports, not only to Ireland, but to anywhere else. Unless politicians start talking sense and face the truth, the disruptions to the market place will be catastrophic for the entire food chain, not to mention the reality that we are only 60% self sufficient in food!!