I can’t begin to tell you how good it was to be back on the show circuit again – Kinross Show took place last weekend ... and what a fantastic attendance.

It was great to catch up with friends and fellow exhibitors we hadn’t seen in more that 18 months. And the weather played ball too.

There was certainly a reasonable amount of stock from people desperate to just get back out amid some sense of normality. Meeting up for a blether and some healthy competition is just what the doctor ordered.

This pandemic has claimed its share of lives, as well as sending many down the dark road of depression. Interaction is so good for our mental health and wellbeing. So well done to the organisers of Kinross Show and other shows who’ve gone the extra mile to conform with current legislation and administer a healthy dose of medicine.

Here’s to the road of recovery.

Another step down that road was the Gold Cup open day at Darnlaw, organised by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, and hosted by the Sloan family. It was a great success and a tribute to a family which presented a fabulous showcase of what they do and how they do it. And they do it rather well.

This was the third attempt at hosting the event due to Covid-19. The day was well supported by visitors and trade suppliers and was one of the first face-to-face events for many since March, 2020.

The day focused around ‘embracing change’ – a factor that’s been key to the Sloan family’s success in creating its progressive dairy business. This is a traditional family business which has installed the latest robotic technology to ensure its long term future.

The Holstein Master Breeder herd is milked using three Lely robots whilst the Jersey herd is still milked through the conventional herringbone parlour. Robert Sloan told us: "With the Holstein herd housed all year round and the Jerseys grazed in the summer, the farm has a unique position of two very different systems running side-by-side. All of it is done in a bid to make the farm ever more efficient."

I’m always keen to see how others rear their calves and what I can learn from them. Robert said every dairy farm should be aiming for growth rates of between 0.7 and 0.9kg a day for heifers to calf at 24 months. Heifers calving at two years old, rather than older have proved to have better fertility, give more milk, better longevity, and lower rearing costs … something we all strive to achieve.

Calves are the future and how they are looked after determines how successful a herd is. Good quality colostrum is a must and, like Robert, I test ours kept for the calves with a refractometer. If it doesn’t meet the grade, it’s replaced with powdered colostrum, or half and half depending on the quality.

With the current unemployment level where it is, it’s very hard to understand the ongoing lorry driver shortages which have hit the UK’s milk supply. A shortage of staff though isn’t just within the HGV industry, it appears to be a nationwide problem.

It doesn’t matter who you speak to, there seems to be an inability to recruit reliable, hardworking, people. The ready supply of highly capable foreign workers has dried up too, with many returning home in the wake of Brexit.

The biggest scandal of all, though, had to be farmers in the north of England being told to put their milk down the drain because their processor doesn’t have a driver to lift it. Producers will still be paid – by that’s not the point. There are thousands upon thousands of starving people in the world and we have the audacity to just throw milk away! How can we justify that?

Arla is thought to be one of the worst affected, reporting daily disruptions to its deliveries. It’s calling on government to accelerate the programme of tests for new HGV drivers.

They’re also looking for government to temporarily issue visas to encourage European drivers to fill the gaps, with an estimated shortage of some 100,000 drivers! Arla boss, Ash Amirahmadi, is predicting a food shortage in the near future unless there’s a solution.

Some companies have taken drastic measures to try and fill shortages by offering financial incentives, such as £2000 cash, to join their team along with wages of £50/hour. Desperate people do desperate things.

The NFU is encouraging farmers to speak up if they have been affected by labour availability. The union says it’s working with other trade bodies to address these issues at senior government level.

Despite all this, there is an air of optimism within the industry with beef, sheep, pig and even milk prices on the increase. The pandemic hasn’t been good for the general economy, or folks’ mental health, but it has bolstered agricultural commodity prices as consumers look to buy local.

According to dairy industry commentator, Chris Walkland, the market is the most positive it has been in weeks. The spot price is well over 30p per litre and with supplies down on the year, there is potential for it to rise further. Farmgate prices are turning back towards 28p, having dropped to 27p.

Latest figures show volumes are on the downturn and its likely production will remain under pressure. Feed costs have rocketed and continue to do so, variable silage quality and high cull cow prices give rise to further potential for lower production later in the year.

A digital dairy project which hoped to create 600 new jobs in South-west Scotland and Cumbria has been awarded more than £21m of funding. The initiative is led by Scotland’s Rural College and it’s expected the 'Digital Dairy Value-Chain' could generate an additional £60m per year for an area which produces nearly 2bn litres of milk a year. What a fantastic initiative.

We should all be very well aware of our carbon footprint by now and what we have to do to address it! As well as helping to decarbonise the dairy industry, the project will help to develop and retain a skilled and innovative workforce to create new products and new ways of working.

Dumfries and Galloway is often referred to as the heartland of dairy farming in Scotland, accounting for almost half of the country’s dairy herd. It’s also an area close to my heart, having been brought up there. Let’s hope this innovative project helps dairy farming become a sustainable and thriving industry.

Before I sign off, I would like to thank the Scottish Holstein Club for their generous award after I stepped down as club secretary after 14 years. The flowers and garden centre vouchers were very much appreciated but the certificate from Holstein UK recognising my contribution to the club has to be the icing on the cake.

It was very thoughtful and brought a tear to my eye, and I wish the club all the very best for the future and hope it continues to go from strength to strength.