Farm Profit Programme: focus group open day
The Farmers Journal/ANM Group Farm Profit Programme will open its doors for anyone interested in joining a focus group on Wednesday 13 December at 3pm in Thainstone mart.

The project, supported by the Scottish Government has established a number of focus groups throughout the north and northeast of the country. However, there are still some places available for people who have yet to sign up.

The objective of each of the focus groups is to get 12 – 15 like minded farmers together to discuss their farm businesses, share experiences and improve overall technical efficiency – leading to increased farm profitability.

The groups, which will meet four times per year, will be self-driven and create the agenda and topics to be explored and discussed.

The open day will showcase a sample of some of the topics that the groups will cover. There’s a great line up of practical, hands-on demonstrations on:

How to accurately body condition score (BCS) cows.

Feeding to BCS and the cost saving this can have over the winter period.

SAC Vet Lab will be in attendance to discuss some of the most common causes of death in cases submitted for post mortem.

Ewe nutrition pre-lambing – getting the basics right to maximise lamb output.

Three targets to hit to improve your bottom line!

If you are not already in a focus group come along and see what is involved. The event takes plavce on Wednesday 13 December at Thainstone Mart at 3pm.

To register your interest or find out more, please send your details to or call 01467 623866.

Political ‘impasse’ stopping progress for Scottish farmers
The UK and Scottish Governments must “resolve the impasse” over policy and financial frameworks and power repatriation

The UK and Scottish Governments must “resolve the impasse” over policy and financial frameworks and power repatriation if they are to create an agricultural policy that “fits the needs and profile of Scottish agriculture”, according to NFU Scotland.

Commenting during a lengthy debate on the draft UK Agriculture Bill on Wednesday, the union’s political affairs manager, Clare Slipper said: “However, we have been equally clear that such a schedule – or any other alternative vehicle – must come about through constructive work between Scottish and UK ministers, rather than being imposed by Westminster.

“It is critical that, within a commonly agreed regulatory and standards framework across the UK, Scotland retains complete autonomy in the development and delivery of new agricultural and rural policy, through an effective transition period, that will enable managed change at business, sector and industry levels,” she said.

Pete Wishart MP told the House of Commons Chamber that the Scottish Government would not agree to a schedule to the bill “as long as this [UK] Parliament and this Government fail to respect the devolution settlement […] We are happy to have common frameworks across the United Kingdom, as we have said again and again, but they have to be agreed and negotiated; they cannot be imposed.”

Terms of reference

Defra Secretary Michael Gove said that his department would soon publish terms of reference for a review of funding across the UK.

“I can guarantee, however, that agricultural funding will not be Barnetised, and the generous—rightly generous—settlement that gives Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales more than England will be defended,” Gove said.

Successive MPs raised concerns that food production and food security needed greater emphasis in the bill: “Food production is missing from this agriculture bill,” said Deidre Brock MP, SNP shadow Defra secretary: “We really cannot talk about how to regulate or support farming unless we also talk about producing food,” she said to the House.

WTO uncertainty

With regard to the vexed question of who should negotiate on the UK’s behalf and how negotiation positions should be reached by the UK Government and devolved administrations, Gove said: “I should stress that the bill will ensure that the UK can take its seat at the World Trade Organisation and negotiate on behalf of the whole United Kingdom.

‘‘Some people have suggested that the bill constitutes a power grab from our devolved Administrations—nothing could be further from the truth.”

Industry backlash over sheep tag proposals
By Emily Smith and William Conlon

Farmers in Scotland may soon be required to use a secondary tag for sheep when sending them to markets or finishers, if draft EU regulations which are currently under consideration are implemented, Farmers Journal Scotland understands.

Commenting on the possibility of the new regulations, a spokesperson for NFU Scotland said: “Last Thursday, NFU Scotland was made aware that a draft delegated regulation has been produced by the European Commission which is relevant to sheep EID. At the moment, normal practice in Scotland is to use slaughter tags for the traceability of sheep destined for slaughter within 12 months of birth. This allows for animals to be sent to markets and finishers in batches without the need to record individual identification numbers or to identify these animals with a secondary tag.”

There are concerns within the industry that such regulations could have a detrimental effect on the store and prime lamb trade.

“I don’t see the need to change the current tagging regulations,” according to Andrew Wright executive secretary to the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland.

“What it means is that any movement apart from direct to slaughter from the farm of birth will require two tags. Other countries in the EU don’t have the stratified system we have. In Europe the majority of lambs would go direct from farm to slaughter whereas a lot of our lambs will come down of the hill for further feeding.”

“It is not only the increased cost and workload associated with using the additional tags but the requirement that every individual number would be recorded in the flock register. There could be big issues with cross compliance if numbers were entered incorrectly.”

Store buyers

One possibility is that farmers may decide to send sheep directly to abattoirs which could affect numbers moving through auctions.

The NFUS spokesperson confirmed that the Union are currently examining the wording within the draft delegated regulation: “We aim to demonstrate to political representatives in Scotland and Europe that our current sheep traceability provides full traceability without adding over burdensome cost and bureaucracy on our stratified sheep production system.

“It is important to stress that this draft regulation is not final and that discussions will continue in Europe on this draft delegated regulation.”

Chairman of the National Sheep Association (NSA) Scotland, John Fyall has also confirmed that the organisation will work with other stakeholders to address any possible implications: “We found out about this very late in the day and we’re slightly put out that Defra didn’t think to consult NSA stakeholders.

“NSA headquarters have only been made aware of this in the last fortnight and it’s frankly shocking that the whole industry has only found out about this late in the day.”

It is not yet known when these draft proposals, if passed, would come into effect for Scottish farmers.

Both the Scottish Government and Defra were approached for a comment, but failed to respond before publication.

Ag census results betray impact of 2018’s poor weather
Production across almost all Scottish agricultural sectors has fallen, according to results of the June 2018 agricultural census, revealing the impact of 2017’s poor back-end and 2018’s hard winter

Production across almost all Scottish agricultural sectors has fallen, according to results of the June 2018 agricultural census, revealing the impact of 2017’s poor back-end and 2018’s hard winter and summer drought.

NFUS livestock policy manager, John Armour said: “The four per cent decline in the breeding ewe population represents a worrying statistic which will clearly have an impact on the local economies of remote communities.

“The reduction in cattle numbers, while less significant year on year, demonstrates yet another period of decline for the national herd.

“The Government and actors in the supply chain must act to ensure that beef production in Scotland is supported and enhanced in future and halt the decline in the national herd.”

NFU Scotland crops policy manager, Peter Loggie said: “The areas planted in winter-sown cereals and oilseeds all fell from 2017 due to the poor planting conditions in autumn 2017, so those figures are not too surprising.

“Comparing the five years to 2017 the changes look a bit different.

“Wheat is down but by only 5%, spring barley down by 4% rather than being up, and oats up 10%, both winter and spring.

“Both the soft fruit and orchard fruit are up […]. However, the volume of fruit crops reaching consumers will not have fully reflected the increase in crop area as tonnes of fruit were lost because of the shortage of workers.”