So, Mother Nature did it again – having come in like a lamb, March certainly went out like a lion.

The wind, rain and cold of two weekends ago came at a very bad time for in-bye lambings. It was well forecast, but that didn’t make it any better.

We never got any Mule ewes with lambs out for five days, so every spare corner of every shed at Knockenjig was bursting at the seams. Now we are getting ewes and lambs out, but it remains bitterly cold. In fact, they are going out in colder temperatures than when the ewes were housed in late January, early February. But at least it’s dry. If it had been wet and cold like a fortnight ago it would have been carnage.

Grass growth has stopped, with hard frosts in the mornings and a biting cold north-west wind, but there is some heat in the sun if lambs (and shepherds) can get out of the wind. I see a delivery of fertiliser sitting in a silage pit at Drumbuie, but thankfully it’s still in the bag. We will need more heat than this before fertiliser will do any good – at least in Sanquhar!

Michael’s calving is also flying along, with around 80/85% of cows now calved. Like lambing sheep, calving cows is never without ‘excitement’ and this year is no different. But the one thing you can be sure of is once they start calving or lambing, it will come to a finish, good, bad or indifferent! No prevarication, obfuscation, spin or waffle – it has a beginning and an end.

This is in stark contrast to the recent work of the farmer-led groups (FLGs) and in particular the Suckler Beef Climate Group that I co-chaired with Fergus Ewing. The effort that industry volunteers have put into this process, in our case for a year now, and for the other FLGs a record-breaking shift over the last four or five months, has been phenomenal.

I have never seen an initiative so enthusiastically pursued by the industry and that is to the credit of all those involved. If only that enthusiasm and effort had been replicated by some senior officials at ScotGov, I would be more confident that it might be delivered one day.

How many policy, or strategy reports have been presented by the industry to ScotGov policy officials over the last 10 years? And how many of them have ever seen the light of day and been implemented? Answer: None.

There is a predictable inevitability about enthusiastic industry engagement, ideas and initiatives to take the industry forward, and a total lack of commitment, effort or intention of senior ScotGov policy officials to develop the framework required to allow it to happen. The unceremonious burial of the Pack and the Ag Champions reports are two examples of this in the recent past. Now this.

The FLG reports were unceremoniously dumped onto the ScotGov website on the day before purdah started – the period before an election where no government announcements are allowed. Fergus Ewing, an enthusiastic supporter and promoter of these FLGs and their work, was forced to put out a banal statement thanking everyone for their work, but made no commitment to deliver the content.

Of course, officials will blame the election and probably Covid-19 (doesn’t it get the blame for everything these days?), for the fact that these reports didn’t have time to be properly considered and a formal response issued. Of course, to some extent, that’s true.

However, that doesn’t explain what happened to the work of the Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board. In the total absence of any alternative suggestions, or ideas from senior ScotGov policy officials, each of us had given up a huge amount of our time and committed a great deal of energy to deliver our remit and a beef scheme, which we did by early March.

We have had no official explanation of what might happen next, indeed to have had no communication of any kind, is totally unacceptable. But I guess it’s symptomatic of the ScotGov policy vacuum for years and totally in keeping with the experience of the likes of the late Brian Pack. It is rude, unprofessional and discourteous on the basis of the effort my board members put in to designing a scheme.

Two things really bother me about this and they should bother every livestock farmer in Scotland, not just beef producers.

Firstly, despite our best efforts over the last 14 months to prove that the livestock sector is willing and able to engage in initiatives to tackle climate change, some senior ScotGov officials in the area of the Economy Directorate, of which agriculture is a part, simply don’t believe it.

There is a total failure to understand, or maybe a total failure to accept the contribution that the production of red meat and milk products make to the Scottish economy. Indeed, for some, there seems a real opposition to the production of red meat and milk products, full stop!

There have been no policy announcements from ScotGov in the last few years simply because they have no policies for developing our wonderful industry to offer, save one which came to light during our detailed work on the Suckler Programme Board. The alternative being peddled by these senior individuals to the FLG proposals, at least for the livestock sector, is simply to cut numbers to hit greenhouse gas targets.

In the case of suckler beef, the proposal put to me and subsequently articulated in a paper to my board, was to cut numbers by an eye-watering 300,000 head. Yes, 300,000 out of a total of 1.2m beef animals to be taken out with the stoke of a pen to hit climate change targets.

Many in that group will corroborate this outrageous proposal from senior ScotGov policy officials who I thought were paid to promote our industry. Instead, it would appear, through a combination of ignorance, ambivalence and in sometimes downright open hostility, to meat and milk production, they wish to destroy the critical mass of the sector and export the emissions associated with beef production to Ireland, or Brazil.

What is even more galling, is that there has been absolutely no thought given to the impact on the supply chain or meat processing sector that this primary production in Scotland supports. All this sits under a directorate in the Scottish Government with ‘Economy’ in its title. It is scandalous but, I’m afraid, true and the board were unanimous in their total opposition to this outrageous proposal. As we should all be.

Secondly, we should all be bothered about democracy and democratic government here in Scotland – and I’m not talking about independence. I studied politics amongst other things at university and I was taught then that democratically elected politicians make decisions and the Civil Service (in this case ScotGov officials) implement these decisions.

It appears in Scotland today that is not the case. Fergus Ewing made it clear to our board on several occasions and he had instructed officials that we support them to deliver a Suckler Climate Scheme by mid-March and that’s exactly what we did. However, it seems that very senior officials didn’t like the scheme for whatever reasons and so simply said ‘no’.

Even more perverse and worrying was a ‘leak’ to The Times newspaper just before our planned announcement, attacking Fergus Ewing personally about this proposal and trying to smear him. Of course, it was totally unsubstantiated and anonymous, and in fact total bollocks.

But what it showed was just what is happening at the heart of government in Scotland, where if officials don’t like a policy instead of doing their job, they just say ‘no’ and cry foul. The tail is wagging the dog as far as agriculture policy is concerned and it stinks.

I could write a book on the way this FLG initiative has gone for the last 14 months and maybe someday soon I will. But for now the most important thing is to save it, or the alternative is Armageddon.

That would, literally, be an attack on the fundamental structure of the livestock sector – fewer sucklers, fewer sheep, fewer pigs, fewer dairy cows – overall, less food production. Simply to tick the box of reducing emissions in this way is perverse in the extreme and all the FLGs have offered serious alternatives to this madness.

The SNP will no doubt form the next government and I very much hope Fergus Ewing will be back to defend our rural economy and food industry and see this through. He will never support the forced reduction of non- productive animals and nor will his party.

But we will need to be unified in our opposition to these forces working in the shadows. Even with an SNP Government, these initiatives will wither on the vine and our precious industry will be decimated on the altar of climate change as the events of the last few weeks and months have shown.

Believe me, this is a battle that we have to win.