Vice President's Blog - 30 July

With the dry spell creating many issues across the country, Vice President Martin Kennedy found it very interesting when he ventured to Shetland last week to see how some of our farmers and crofters in more remote areas are being affected.

Martin writes: “For Shetland, however, it was looking well and thankfully both crop and stock are thriving on what has been a good spring and summer, contrary to many other parts of Scotland. One thing is for sure, the Shetlanders certainly deserve a good year as they suffer plenty others that are not so friendly.

“Whilst I was up there I was given the opportunity to be the judge at the local NFU Scotland stock-judging at the market in Lerwick and gave a presentation about where we think the direction of travel should be for agricultural policy given the feedback we’ve received from members. It was an excellent night which was very well attended, so thank you to all those who came along.

“Although the weather has been kinder up there, the crofters are very concerned about the dry weather on the mainland as this is where most of their lambs and calves will be finished.  Unless there’s a change in the grass situation shortly, then buyers will be reluctant to buy store animals at a reasonable price. Store lamb sales are getting closer and the last thing we want is for there to be no confidence in the market.

“Last year, the finishers got a real kick at the ball and deservedly so as they’ve stuck with it for a few years now for very little return if any.

“It's great now to see some decent amounts of rain falling across most parts of Scotland.  This will surely allow grass to recover to ensure adequate supplies for store animals to go on to.

“Finished lamb prices last year hit record prices and hopefully that will give confidence to buyers that this can be repeated. With the shortage of lambs on the ground, due to the poor weather at lambing, and New Zealand engaging more in markets nearer home, there should be a cause for real optimism out there for decent prices later in the season.

“During my meetings with locals I spoke about the Union’s ongoing straw and feed campaign #NFUSHowDoYouPlan which encourages people to plan their businesses not just for this winter but for looking ahead too. The three main elements of the campaign are to; 1. Plan ahead 2. Look at alternatives and 3. Collaborate

“Living and working in areas like Shetland almost forces you to be doing this anyway, yet it was still pleasing to see quite a number of forward-thinking young people, looking ahead to see how they could drive their businesses forward.

“Something that you can't ignore in Shetland is the cost of bringing feeding or bedding on to the islands. Most people are fully aware that when at all possible it's far better to try and make your own feeding to reduce the costs. This is something that can be quite challenging in Shetland but worthwhile where possible. I was even shown a field of fodder beet, (which you don’t expect to see on Shetland but was looking very healthy). This certainly proved to me that every option was being looked at to try and adapt to the challenges faced.

“Shetland has a very circular economy which works very well.  Although much of the produce is exported, there is also an excellent market and abattoir in operation. The abattoir is crucial to allowing local finished stock to be slaughtered and consumed locally. If this service wasn't there then animals would need to be exported to the mainland, processed there and shipped back up, all at an unsustainable cost both to the producers and the environment. Enabling this to continue is essential for keeping communities thriving in more remote areas.

“Farming and crofting right across Scotland is absolutely key to both delivering for the economy and protecting our environment.  Let's hope our politicians take the view that when decisions are made on future policy they will be made on what's best for our country rather than what would gain the most votes.”  Ends


Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin Vice President of NFU Scotland and is a tenant farmer in Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters, Jillian, Katrina and Yvonne. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to over 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire branch chairman, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin then went on to be vice chairman then chaired the committee for three years. He has served as Vice President of NFUS for two years and is currently sitting on his third.

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