Fodder costs and women in agriculture: Argyll chairman reports

A packed Tarbert Bowling Club for the NFUS regional branch AGM. 

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Not surprisingly, the weather featured prominently in the chairman’s address at a recent National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) meeting.

A good turnout of members gathered at Tarbert Bowling Club for the Argyll and the Islands regional AGM, with farmers travelling from all corners of the dispersed territory on Friday January 12.

In his report to members, chairman John Dickson – re-elected to the post at the meeting – looked back over a year of weather which affected both the business of farming and the union’s smooth running in the area.

Until the end of lambing time, 2017 had seen a good spell of weather, he said.

Firm prices for sheep and for milk had contributed to a sense of optimism among farmers.

He added: ‘But, as always, we can’t control the weather, unfortunately, and what followed was the most difficult summer and autumn in living memory.

‘As a result, fodder stocks are at an all-time low in the region. The demand for hay and straw has led to prices that are eye-watering for anyone looking for alternative fodder sources.’

NFUS Argyll and the Islands regional chairman, John Dickson
NFUS Argyll and the Islands regional chairman, John Dickson

Mr Dickson, who farms on the Isle of Bute, went on: ‘We are reassured by [Rural Economy Secretary] Fergus Ewing’s decision to set up a weather committee.

‘The committee, or panel, will act as a taskforce for quickly sharing information and encouraging co-operation to help farmers and crofters respond effectively to challenging weather conditions.

‘Argyll and the Islands regional board meetings, too, had been disrupted by poor weather, with the July meeting cancelled for this reason.’

Mr Dickson echoed the thoughts of everyone present when he remarked: ‘All we can hope for now is an early spring.’

A joint meeting with the Forth and Clyde NFUS regional board had been successful, said Mr Dickson, which incorporated a trip to the research farm at Auchtertyre.

In October the union hosted a very popular ‘women in agriculture’ event in Lochgilphead, at which more than 50 people attended. ‘This is something that we would hope to repeat,’ Mr Dickson commented.

He concluded on a more sombre note, recounting the recent sad passing of union member Bruce Dixon from Kilmartin.

Mr Dickson said: ‘Bruce did a lot for his branch and region, and his death shook us all.’