It’s a pity the environmental NGOs weren’t at SAC’s beef technical event at Huntly this week to see how motivated the industry is to embrace any measures that will reduce emissions and improve biodiversity.
On their way to picturesque Cairnborrow Farm on the banks of the Deveron, groups like the RSPB and WWF – which we’re told are arguing for agri-environment support to far outweigh that for food production – would have been treated to a green patchwork landscape richly peppered in livestock, broadleaved trees, silage-making in full swing and undoubtedly plenty of biodiversity.
The 150 or so farmers who turned out on a great summer’s day to hear experts advise on methane inhibitors, making the best use of grass and improving animal health, were in no doubt that radical change is accelerating towards them and they need to do everything they can to comply.
And – as they are constantly reminded – reduced emissions equals efficiency and profitability.
Many of them would have passed Thainstone where – like all the other marts this week – new record prices were being set for cull cows. And who wouldn’t take advantage of unprecedented prices to get rid of unproductive animals (another emissions win), although it’s hardly a long-term strategy.
The Wordie family who hosted the day have jumped on the bandwagon too, but unlike many in the industry, they are restocking, breeding calves to be finished by other producers and taking a punt that the measures they’re taking – that have implications for years down the line – will be compliant with the Brigadoon-like Scottish agricultural policy.
Nicola Wordie summed up the mood of many of those at the meeting when she said the farm had plenty of options to adapt to meet climate change and biodiversity goals, but
the dithering over policy meant they didn’t know which way to turn.
Insiders suggest that policy progress is virtually non-existent, and the Scottish Government’s proposed timetable for even launching a consultation in August is now in jeopardy.
So, while the farming and environmental groups lobby government and the Ariob committee staggers along at its glacial pace, the industry is just getting on and making decisions.
And while for some that is attending meetings and getting the best possible steer on how to prepare for the brave new world, others are inevitably looking at record prices for livestock and land and concluding they don’t have time to wait for the talking to end.