Gary with two young handlers and a cow at a showGary Mitchell with Emma Burgess and Anja Leslie, pictured with Emma's heifer calf, Smartie

It’s hard to believe in May I wrote how glad I was to see the rain arrive. Now I just want it to go away.

It was bringing back memories of 1985 when I was 15 and it was my second season on a combine. I remember finishing combining wheat on 7 October and in our local newspaper I read about a farmer who made hay (and by that I mean dead grass in a bale) in November.

This year we were struggling to get the right ground conditions for wholecrop and we only managed to combine 6ha for caustic treatment with 18.6ha of undersown springwheat still to chop.

See also: Read more from our livestock Farmer Focus writers 

Calving at full speed

On the dairy side, cows are calving at pace, which is great to see. Hopefully by the time the milk price hits 30p+ our milk flow will be back to where it should be.

I do apologise for not getting more excited about milk prices starting with a three, but we are just at the beginning of the recovery phase and the situation will not be mended in a few months. As we look at more ways to cut our costs, making any long-term investments is no easy decision.

However, still we need to maximise profit through this low currency pre-Brexit period.

Northern adventure

I have had two full weeks away from politics after a busy show season with my final trip to Shetland and Orkney, which had good weather.

It was especially good on Shetland, where I had the privilege of attending Cunningsburgh Show and meeting two young handlers, Emma Burgess and Anja Leslie, showing in the dairy class (pictured with Emma’s heifer calf, Smartie).

Shetland’s milk price is 39p/litre. It’s a shame to see only three dairies left, producing just 40% of the required milk for the island. There must be an opportunity to change this.

If Tesco and the Co-op decided to support local milk better instead of using the boat this would be a big boost for the local economy. I met some really good crofters who are innovative under very extreme conditions (mainly wind and salt spray).

Orkney, on the other hand, has better land quality and extremely well-bred beef cattle along with its own milk co-operative producing Orkney Cheese. I recommend trying it for its distinct taste – it’s one of my favourites.


Gary Mitchell milks 800 cows near Stranraer, with heifers reared on a local farm. Gary zero grazes 80ha of the 195ha he owns. He is vice-chairman for NFU Scotland.