WHILE high-flying sheep prices and more than acceptable beef prices might be lulling us into a false sense of security, there is no doubt that the industry faces at least two years of uncertainty and volatility – no matter what the final outcome of all the bluff and bluster of Brexit negotiations.

On top of that, we have the very real prospect of facing competition from around the world which will come into the UK as a result of the current Government's strategy of cheap food at all costs.

So, is it time for the livestock industry to use this income – which was an unexpected windfall considering the gloom in the industry at the start of this year – to get themselves Brexit ready?

That will mean looking seriously at ways of making each business more efficient, because the portents are that we are heading for a period of survival of the fittest in the beef industry. And that is the harsh reality.

There are no quick fixes to this, but tweaking management with little fixes here and there can add up to a whole lot of savings. Coincidentally, this will also be a major plank in the industry's move towards becoming more carbon efficient and maybe that is the Westminster Government's plan all along – though don't bet on this being any kind of a thought out strategy.

Currently being hit by brick-bats by all and ill-informed sundry that it is almost as bad as aviation for 'the planet', beef (and to a lesser extent sheep) production can be proved to be a major part of any solution when it comes to hitting climate change targets.

We've all been given enough pointers to expect radical new ways of improving efficiency to be the main planks in the Scottish Government's support mechanisms for encouraging climate friendly suckler beef production, currently being deliberated on by the Suckler Beef Climate Group.

The report – from a group set up to produce a template for a clean and green suckler industry – must surely be imminent. The SBCG promise of an interim review at the end of March was stymied by Covid-19 and its many restrictions, which delayed it, but should be due soon.

This group, which is made up of a fair population of forward-thinking young people and under the chairmanship of Jim Walker, will, without doubt, come up with radical new thinking. It could not be anything but that with Walker's hand on the tiller, but it comes at a time when the industry has to face up to the twin challenges of Brexit and climate change within much the same medium term time frame.

There are many new tools and husbandry – from improved grazing systems, to automatic weighing regimes – which can be used to root out inefficient cattle, not only to the betterment of the bottom line, but the environment as well. Without doubt there will be some harsh lessons to be learnt from the process, but the prize will be a leaner, fitter beef industry capable of standing up against any in the world – and with green credentials already built in.

That's some prize!