Vice President's Blog - 28 August 2018

We are all now fully aware of the implications of the drought conditions we have just come through. Most livestock farmers are having to look at how they will get through the coming winter, it may be by having a ration planned out early enough or maybe looking at alternative sources of bedding and fodder to supplement what’s grown on the farm. Although many arable farmers are switching off the choppers on their combines, which is very much appreciated, there is still a real concern that supplies will be extremely tight going into the coming winter. One way or another the industry will pull together and get through this.

I’ve always been an optimist and firmly believe that if you go into something with a positive attitude, you have far more chance of getting the desired outcome. That’s why at every opportunity I'll try to look at the positive side of our industry. We as farmers are far too good at talking our own industry down and that doesn't help as pessimism can spread much quicker than optimism.

It’s a bit like a news story, every time there’s a disaster it makes the headlines, everyone hears about it and everyone talks about it.

Unfortunately, there’s not enough interest when things are going well. Take for example, our beef price, it’s widely recognised as being the most expensive beef in the whole world - albeit the associated costs are extremely high - that's a fantastic story to tell but it won’t sell in the tabloids. Our sheep farming which goes on in most of our hills is absolutely vital to addressing climate change with all the good credentials of sheep associated with sustainability, not just for the sheep sector but the wider benefits when it comes to the whole rural economy. All livestock that graze grass and poorer forage keep our hillsides in a very good carbon sequestrating state.

If that livestock was completely withdrawn then the rank vegetation that would take over would simply die back and release carbon into our atmosphere adding to our challenge of keeping our planet in a good sustainable state.

Scotland is in pole position when it comes to carbon capture, admittedly our rainfall helps us, but the combination of our green pastures and hills and the livestock that grazes them in a sustainable manner that encourages all other forms of biodiversity, is something we should be shouting about from the rooftops.

Again, unfortunately it’s not a story that’s going to sell to the public. We have become an industry that’s taken for granted and no one will sit up and do anything about it until it’s too late.

What we need to do is take a leaf out of Russell Howard’s book and start telling the good news. There’s plenty of it, from producing a high-quality food and drink product in a natural manner from every sector to making a massive contribution to the fantastic mosaic of colours and biodiversity that we are so proud of.

Let’s not be taken for granted, let’s spread the good news, the more people that hear about it the better.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin is a tenant farmer in Aberfeldy, Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire Branch chair, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin went on to be Vice-Chair before chairing the committee for three years. He was elected Vice-President in 2017 and elected as President in 2021.

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