Scotland's water divide

NEVER mind the North/South divide in economic fortune – that pales into insignificance at the moment to the East/West divide on that most basic of commodities, water!

While farms in the West have been almost bathing in the stuff, those in the East have been cracking up and resorting to irrigation, a practice which is increasingly coming under scrutiny as burns, rivers and lochs have been drying up.

Universally, though, crops are looking good and if harvested in good order, then that should be enough to help stave off the double whammy that's been evident in the past couple of weeks – lower prices and higher costs. The problem will be if there's any delay to harvest that might affect quality and or the need to dry it – that will be a hard hit to take for many farmers struggling with balancing the books due to high fertiliser prices in particular.

Luckily – at least so far – we have not experienced the oppressive heat that has been evident in many parts of England and in Europe, but a dry period from now until harvest would be just what the doctor ordered. Grassland farmers might dispute that, though!

There's no doubt that high fertiliser bills have concentrated minds on getting the most out of that lifeblood product and that might be no bad thing. It's also made people think about what's known as 'regenerative agriculture' (a horrible phrase that a lot of people don't like), but basically it is going back to a time when our forefathers looked after their soil a bit better than when the use of cheap, bagged fertiliser and pesticides allowed us to forsake.

You know what they say: If you're not learning, you'll soon not be earning ...

A market out of balance?

THE TIMES they are a-changing, too, in livestock breeding and there are many out there who will be getting feverish about the forthcoming round of tup sales.

But the boom in prices over the past 18 months has helped fuel an exponential rise in the use of embryo transfer (ET) work in stock which has the potential to take the steam out of what was becoming an overheated market.

Gone are the days when you needed 50 ewes to get half a dozen tups for sale – now it's more like you can have half a dozen ewes to produce 50 rams for sale and females to sell forbye. And you rarely need to buy a ram on your own for such a small flock, so it all adds up to a lot of rams that will be looking for lady friends this year – we can only hope that there will be enough work for all the boys, because ET work is not cheap.

Maybe a wee fright for the bottom end of the market is what's needed to restore a bit of equilibrium to the tup market, especially?