Covid19 has impacted every industry and every sector of those industries across Scotland and agriculture has been no different, the cancellation of local, regional and national agricultural shows has over the course of 2020 fundamentally changed how we do things. AgriScot has long been regarded as the technical and innovation sibling to the largest agricultural show in Scotland, the Royal Highland Show, and while people go to the Royal Highland Show, largely for social reasons, people come to AgriScot to see what is at the cutting edge of their sectors.
In 2018 the overwhelming feel in the air at AgriScot was that climate change was climbing the political and agricultural agenda, and crucially was getting traction and generating enthusiasm within the farming community. This was even more so the case in 2019, in what can only be described as a cross-cutting issue that is prevalent in every topic worth discussing. This is an objectively good direction for agriculture to be heading in, particularly in uncertain times when farmers need to present themselves to the general public as stewards of the landscape and part of the solution for a greener, cleaner future.
Below, in no particular order is a review of what we feel were the top 5 virtual presentations on the day:
- Scotland has been tasked with achieving net zero emissions by 2045, ambitious targets set by Scottish Government. A crucial component to achieving this is the way farmers and land managers utilise their existing woodland and identifying where more can be created. The first session in our rundown of AgriScot is the 9.30am presentation – Opportunities for Integrating Forestry & Farming for Business Resilience, with David Robertson and Virginia Harden Scott. With investment of £100 million over the next 5 years, the loss of 2.9 million tonne of topsoil per annum in Scotland and cost benefit of woodland sequestration vs carbon capture technology, now really is the time to investigate whether woodland creation and management could be part of your business plan. Funding is available for woodland specialist advice through the Farm Advisory Service (FAS) – https://www.fas.scot/specialist-advice/
- At a time of increasing uncertainty across all sectors, ruminant health, welfare and performance remains an important facet of farm management. The second presentation up for review was Managing Ketosis & Transition Health with Matt Colston, Elanco Animal Health. This was a great session for anyone looking to get a broad appreciation of factors that influence herd health and at the same time provided a good refresher with information that is always worth reminding ourselves about. The presentation covers the difference between clinical and sub-clinical ketosis and the factors we can control to reduce prevalence in the herd, with some striking figures and practical advice. Again, funding support is available for specialist advice on how to improve animal welfare from FAS, as well as supporting materials to improve livestock performance generally – https://www.fas.scot/livestock/
- One of the presentations that ties together the first two on the list in terms of overarching themes of sustainability and improved performance absolutely was Harbro’s Performance Nutrition for Sustainable & Profitable Farming with Maimie Sloan and Jill Hunter. The presentation showcased some impressive figures around use of a new supplement currently being trialled for increased growth rates as well as a shift away from soya and palm kernel in their products, a reflection of incorporating increased sustainability at Harbro. The team also discussed changing markets and consumer demands and how Harbro is working with all parts of the supply chain to meet these developments. This collaboration is most highlighted with Harbro’s collaboration with Muller, as discussed by Phill Scott, Retail Group Manager for Muller.
- Clive Philips, Brodies LLP’s seminar on Farming Partnerships is a must for anyone looking for new entrant advice as it pertains to entry into farming and how to structure your agricultural business. The presentation lays out the difference between a formal written and agreed partnership and a “partnership at will” and some of the pitfalls of the latter. Also, up for discussion is the difference between revenue and capital profits and managing agreements for income. Hugely valuable to understand legal rights to land and how it works as an asset within a partnership, including how land and partnerships operate with leases. This presentation was followed up by Hayley Robertson’s discussion on succession planning and the key things to think about whichever end of the generational scale you are on. Worthwhile noting that the presentations go on for just over an hour and include some great contributions from Sarah Lilley and Scott Logan. A range of advice and materials are available under FAS specifically for New Entrants, our coverage is ongoing and routinely updated – https://www.fas.scot/rural-business/new-entrants/
- Finally, in our rundown of AgriScot, the NFU’s debate with Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Minister for Rural Economy & Tourism. The presentation is particularly important for anyone looking for some reassurances as far as policy development and mitigation against the negative impacts of Brexit may have. Again, carbon, climate and conservation are very much at the forefront of the discussion. He was followed by NFUS president, Andrew McCormick, how spotlights some of the threats and concerns of Scottish farmers, chiefly among these being the need to have performance and efficiency within the industry be the top priority on which future policy should focus. This point included reference to the recent Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant (SACG) and the great line, “It’s hard to go green when you’re in the red”.
All of these presentations and more content, including AgriScot’s Champions of the Decade and the winners of the 2020 Silage Competition can be found at https://agriscot.co.uk/video-hub/ and keep your eyes open for a new podcast, as FAS sits down with AgriScot organiser Martin Dare and discusses the challenges of organising a virtual event, what he hoped for going into the day and his reflections on the content and process.
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