President's Blog - 7 March 2018

Responding to the impact of the ‘Beast from the East’, President Andrew McCornick said: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

“When I think about the recent snow that the majority of Scotland had to endure, I do suffer a bit from ‘glass half-full’ syndrome.

“I have to praise on high the efforts of our farmers and crofters who just got out there and got on with it.  There is no choice for anyone that keeps livestock, and the welfare of animals was, as usual, the number one priority.

“There was significantly extra effort needed to get to some of the outlying stock and I can only imagine that there will be some losses to suffer. On top of that, the additional stress on some of these animals and a need for additional feed to be added to their rations to get them through the lambing successfully. An additional cost burden on an already difficult winter.”

“There were significant amounts of milk that had to go into slurry stores as milk tankers could not get through to lift the milk. Farmers still got out and milked the cows, with frozen parlours having to be thawed to get on with the job and then seeing the effort thrown away.  Most will have been insured but not all.

“Many farmers who had to battle through their own issues on farm were then prepared to go out of their way and help people who were stuck in snow or needing roads cleared to get access.  A service to communities to help their fellow man at no return to themselves and at their cost.

“We must also remember that the terrible weather in much of 2017 put many businesses in a fodder deficit or meeting additional costs to get fodder.  That makes this heroic effort in the past few days worthy of applause.

“The meteorologists deserve thanks as well - we were warned and given opportunity to be prepared as far as possible.

“While farmers coped as best they could, last week’s snow saw our food supply chain exposed as being very fragile and needs a robust examination.      

“How can it be that, within hours, there were major retailers unable to stack their shelves with fresh produce like milk and bread?

“I accept that I wouldn’t want retailer delivery lorries travelling during red weather warnings, but last week’s weather has exposed a culture of short-termism and a lack of contingency planning.

“Seriously, if we can’t get a job done on farm because of snow then we put in a Herculean effort to sort it out at the first opportunity.

“The red weather warning didn’t last for days on end and when we look at haulage during extreme weather, we must take into consideration the collection and delivery of goods at a farm level as well as deliveries to processors and retailers.

“There needs to be clear communications on what weather warnings mean and what should and shouldn’t be on the roads.

“This winter has seen major arteries - the M74 and M80 – both blocked by a volume of snow that many other countries are able to cope with.  The closure of the M74 was not even during a red weather warning event.

“With lambing looming large for many Scottish farmers and crofters, a spell of spring-like weather would be most welcome.

“However, I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard that a TV interviewer suggested to a beleaguered sheep farmer last week if he couldn’t just put the lambing off until the weather improved.

“If only farmers could just ‘shut the office’.”  

Author: Andrew McCornick

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About The Author

Andrew McCornick

Andrew, who is married with three sons and a daughter, was born and brought up on a dairy farm in Wigtown. Andrew and wife Janice farm their 230+ ha unit with 160 suckler cows and 600 breeding ewes with a small herd of pedigree Charolais cattle. Andrew's sons farm a nearby tenanted unit which frequently provides replacement breeding stock for Barnbackle. For as long as Andrew can remember, he has been a member of the Union, and got more involved when the consultation for Nithsdale NVZ came out. From there he went onto become vice chairman of the Dumfries branch, and then onto his previous role of Regional Board Chairman for Dumfries and Galloway. He also sat on the LFASS committee. Andrew was elected Vice President in February 2015.

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