'It seems that NFUS is pinning their hopes on securing enough funding to stagger on through as we are until 2026. After that, we will be totally in the lap of the Gods.'

So, summer is officially over, and consequently, our grazing season for cattle is now finished, only five months after it started.

As of the second week in October, with fields absolutely sodden, all cows, calves, and fatteners are in on full winter rations. The only cattle left outside are 200 in-calf heifers, the Luings on a dry part of Drumbuie Hill and the remainder on much drier ground away from home.

There is grass forever more, but it is impossible to graze it with cattle without making a mess. So, finishing lambs, replacement hoggs, and ewes going to the tup in a couple of weeks will need to tidy it up. At least the last few days have seen frosty mornings and ‘dry-ish’ days, allowing ground to dry a bit.

And for those with late silage and harvest to tidy up and winter crop to drill this wee spell will be a godsend. Although, with Storm Babet already forecast to batter central and eastern Scotland in particular, that doesn’t bode well for areas already sodden from recent deluges.

Both finished and store cattle prices continue to strengthen which is very welcome, especially with such an early start to winter costs. Finished lambs are also on the rise with live markets reporting an increase of between £10-£15 per head over this time last year. And so far, despite the wet conditions, the abundance of grass has meant there is no need for creep feeding with lambs still killing out well.

Barley and straw, our two biggest bought-in feed inputs, have been secured at reasonable money, and with silage between 35-40% DM winter feed costs should be manageable. Interest rates also appear to have peaked as the economy stalls, so hopefully, there are no more shocks to come there.

With all this good news you would have thought that the industry would be full of optimism, but that is simply not the case. Mind, you, it’s difficult to get over-excited about business right now when the senseless brutality of the Ukraine war continues, and now the horrors of what is unfolding in Israel and Gaza fill our screens every minute of every day.

It is impossible to try and rationalise or explain the situation in either Ukraine or the Middle East, but Robert Burns does about as good a job as anyone could in the poem “Man’s Inhumanity to Man”

Many and sharp the numerous ills

Inwoven with our frame;

More pointed still, we make ourselves

Regret, remorse, and shame,

And man, whose heaven-created face

The smiles of love adorn,

Man’s inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourn.

The other dampener on spirits remains the continued impotence of Scot Gov as far as Ag Policy is concerned, but I’ve written about this so often even I’m bored of it. But I do have one further observation on this whole pantomime. I have the utmost respect for Andrew Moir who, it seems, continues to sit on the fig-leaf ARIOB group which is still being led by the nose by Scot Gov officials.

Andrew recently wrote that he felt the group was “gaining traction and being listened to. The improved language and content from the officials' not-inconsiderable work that has gone on behind the scenes has certainly given me reason for optimism. But as always, the devil will be in the detail.”

It would appear that Andrew has drunk from the same cup of elixir as Martin Kennedy when it comes to this ARIOB group and its role – or should I say non-role – in developing Ag Policy. There is not one shred of evidence to support Andrew’s view that it is making progress; the Ag Bill announcement confirmed that. The very fact that he freely admits that “the devil will be in the detail” also proves we are a country mile from where we need to be as an industry, actually as a country as far as the detail of future Ag Policy is concerned.

Even Jonnie Hall, erstwhile cheerleader and part-time communications officer for Scot Gov has finally decided enough is enough and started criticising this nonsense. However, it was interesting that neither the new NFUS chief executive nor the president uttered a critical word when the underwhelming Ag Bill announcement was made.

It seems that NFUS is pinning its hopes on securing enough funding to stagger on through as we are until 2026. After that, we will be totally in the lap of the Gods. Strangely, I’m not as confident as them about Scot Gov funding agriculture properly as their recent track record doesn’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny.

First, it’s ten years since Nigel Miller, the then NFUS president, went on the offensive about stolen Convergence Funding. That issue was resolved while I was in the room some six years later. Of the original £160m Convergence Funding that was repatriated, over £30m was diverted immediately to plug a gap in LFASS funding that Scot Gov refused to finance.

Second, my Bew money – around £30m per year – has been ‘nicked’ as well. Despite Martin Kennedy getting some lovely photos with Shona Robison, the DFM and finance secretary, there is absolutely no sign of its’ return. And third and worst, no guarantee Scot Gov won’t empty his sporran of Bew money again this year without so much as a whimper.

So I’m sorry, Andrew, your optimism is interesting but totally misplaced. Look at the evidence! The present course is just ‘hit and hope’!

And for the small amount of detail about future policy we do know, for example, the proposal for four tiers of payments with potentially dozens of subjective multiple choice management options chucked into the melting pot, (with no defined outcomes) I have a couple of questions. How will it ever be implemented? We currently have an IT system for the delivery of agriculture support payments which was about as far over budget and delayed as the Arran ferries.

And like the Arran ferries it is currently being held together by BluTack and sticky tape and an army of programmers – and now this proposal! After the last IT debacle (that no one was ever really held accountable for), has the Government learned nothing about the complexity of delivering something like this four-tier proposal?

So in short, who will actually design this, when will it be shovel-ready, and how much will long suffering tax payers have to fork out for the privilege of farmers, crofters, and the wider rural economy receiving reduced levels of support of receiving reduced levels of support.

It’s another car crash waiting to happen and simply mind-numbing. Does anyone want a bet that the IT will cost more than the first year’s payments!?

So my advice to Andrew, Martin, et al is – get off the elixir and try smelling the coffee!