I FEEL like a moan – but it’s a bit like the weather, it won’t change anything.

This Covid-19 malarkey is really starting to annoy me. Personally, I think we should be left to our own devices. If you want to go out, do it, if you want to shield, stay at home.

There again that’s probably selfish as we have no idea how catching it might affect some of us. We’ll just have to grin and bear it as I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

Sadly, the early shows might meet the same fate as this year – a no show. The later ones might stand a fighting chance, which is all very well, however these events take months of planning and no-one wants to experience fruitless efforts.

Apologies if I am treating a recent report with contempt, but I can’t help myself. It a bit, well, like stating the obvious. Apparently, reduced costs was the main difference between top and bottom performing dairy businesses.

Accountants, Old Mill, and the Farm Consultancy Group said dairy farmers’ profits had recovered in the last year following a fall the year before, mainly on the back of reduced purchased feed costs. I understand this, however you could argue that the boy at the bottom of the pile is paying the same for feed as the guy at the top so whether you’re getting 30p for your milk or 23p, the difference is still going to be the same.

The big gap between the top and the bottom producers remains, with the top 10% averaging a profit of 12p per litre, compared with a loss of 5.48p for the bottom 10%. A quarter of all producers didn’t even break even.

According to the Farm Consultancy Group, the most important factor for success is being driven and a desire to make a profit. Yes, some of us are more driven than others, however I would hope we all have the same aim of wanting to make a profit!

Unless, of course, you’re working your butt off for fun and your farm is a tax dodge! I doubt there’s many of them around.

Milk price was not the key determining factor, with costs tending to follow any increases. Success was also not defined by a particular system, but by choosing the system which best suited the farm. Really!

Now come on, give us some credit. If you want to invest and update your system, you’re not going to put in a 60-point rotary to milk 100 cows, nor a 16 x 16 herringbone to milk 500. We are all masters of our own destiny and I think most of us have been at the job long enough to know what suits and what doesn’t.

Bigger herds are also not a shortcut to profitability. We should get better before we get bigger. The group also claimed that reducing the cost of work done is vital. Don’t use contractors when you can do it yourself, but I don’t know anyone who uses a contractor just for the hell of it.

They also say quick wins included looking at the cost of running the parlour, bedding costs and more proactive veterinary treatments such as vaccination. And, they were encouraging us to cull the lowest 5-10%. “Farms find they get rid of the lowest and production remains the same.” You don’t say!

Sorry, but I found this whole report a bit of an insult to our intelligence. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll take advice from anyone who has done the job themselves – ie has experience to back up their arguments.

There is widespread disappointment within the industry after an amendment to the Agriculture Bill, which would have banned low-standard food imports, was rejected. I can’t believe how the British Government has betrayed farmers, big style.

Not that long ago, we were being commended for keeping the nation fed and watered. Yes, that’s what we do, but it’s nice to get some recognition now and again.

Now, just a few months along the line, the same politicians have undermined us. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing (that includes 95% of the public) and that’s a high standard of food. For goodness sake, it’s not rocket science and I assume our MPs are reasonably intelligent people? So how the hell can’t they see the point in holding onto the standards we have taken years to achieve.

We must utilise home produce before importing. Having said that, our Minister for International Trade, Liz Truss, is fixed on getting lots of new trade deals at whatever the cost.

I share the view of rebel Tory MP Simon Hoare, who pushed for a similar change to the Bill last time it was in the Commons. He tweeted on Back British Farming Day, that support for our farmers is a little more than a photo opportunity with a wheatsheaf – it means standing up, doing something, and being counted.

However, the Labour MP Hilary Benn has pointed out the EU has already forced Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay to keep hens in line with European standards as part of its Mercosur deal, and said ministers would have the power to determine equivalence on standards, taking account of climatic and landscape differences across the globe. Pardon the pun but 'let’s not count our chickens before they’re hatched'.

Change is coming, whether we like it or not and we need to be prepared for a challenging year ahead – not that the one disappearing before our very eyes hasn’t been a challenging one!

If there is a silver lining in any of this, it’s the Government caving into the huge political pressure they were facing to make the Trade and Agriculture Commission permanent. This means we now have a perennial voice advising Parliament on the likely impact of trade deals. Hopefully, chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef will never make its way into the UK.

On a lighter note, I have spent 14 years as the secretary of the Scottish Holstein Club and stood down at our agm earlier this week. Thank you to all the people I have had the pleasure of working with and have met along the way, not just here but at Holstein UK as well.

There are a lot of passionate, hard-working farmers out there who strive to keep the industry to the fore. Never criticise a farmer with your mouth full, unless of course you’re a vegan.

What I have learnt is invaluable and I leave with mixed emotions, but it’s time to move on. May I wish my successor and the club, especially the young breeders, all the very best for the future.

Finally, I must mention my son, Andrew and young Ruaridh Nelson, from Blair Mains, at Culross. They represented West Fife YFC at the regional dairy cattle dressing for the first-time last weekend – and won the junior section. Andrew was on the clippers, with Ruaridh holding.

I hope this is the start of good things to come. Well done boys.