At the time of writing this column the arrival of warm, spring weather seems a long way off, and those still lambing ewes in our hills and uplands are having to work hard to save newborn lambs.

Hopefully the weather will change for the better by the weekend and the sun will shine on Ayr County Show this Saturday. Since it changed from a two-day event to a one-day show in 2014 it has become one of the biggest of its kind in Scotland and attracted 10,000 visitors in 2016.

The season for agricultural shows has only just begun in Scotland with the first being Kilmaurs Show that was held at the Scott Ellis Playing Fields, Kilmarnock on Saturday, 21st April. Strictly speaking, the Thainstone Spring Show, held on the last Wednesday of February, is the first show of the year - but a fair bit of it is held within Aberdeen and Northern Marts' Thainstone Centre at Inverurie - and February is a winter month rather than spring.

That show is held so early because, traditionally, that was when farmers in the North East bought their seeds and fertilisers. Indeed that is one of the main reasons for holding agricultural shows - many of them were established to allow merchants and machinery dealers promote the latest varieties of crops, and demonstrate developments in farming techniques and equipment.

Above all else, shows are social events for the farming community that allow folk to meet and catch up with all the news. It's a safe bet that the main topic at Saturday's show in Ayr will be the dreadful winter, extremely late spring and horrendous lambing.

Some farmers get together while watching the livestock being judged, while others meet on the trade stands as they kick the tyres of expensive, glistering machinery. My first port-of-call at an agricultural show is usually the craft sector to admire the shepherds crooks and walking sticks. Many are works of art with things like sheepdogs, pheasants, grouse, fish, mice or thistles mounted on scrolls carved out of the horn handle. They take countless hours of careful craftsmanship to make and truly are marvels to behold.

Like Moses without his staff, a livestock farmer without a stick is unthinkable. They come in various shapes and sizes from rough-looking "cattle herders" - that are simply sticks or lengths of plastic plumbing pipe - to the fancy crooks we use on days away from the farm attending the likes of markets and shows.

Crooks are an everyday essential for shepherds that give support and leverage when climbing steep braes, steady you on your descent - acting like a third leg - as well as being vital for catching nimble sheep.

With skill and the assistance of a sheepdog, sheep are manoeuvred and encouraged to run past the shepherd, often between him and a drystane dyke or fence, so that it is caught by the neck in the crook.

Another type of crook, called a leg cleek, catches sheep by the hock joint in one of its back legs. Better still, unlike neck crooks that require the shepherd to exert some strength to restrain sheep struggling against it, those caught in a leg cleek tend to back towards the shepherd and consequently are easier to hold on to.

Made from a straight, stout hazel shank, crooks have a shaped and carved ram's horn handle securely fitted.

After drying and curing for a couple of years, the horns from a dead ram are shaped by gently heating over a heat source like an oil lamp - hard horn becomes malleable when hot.

The idea is to crush the heated horn in an engineer's vice in such a way that the hollow centre that once carried blood vessels and nerves is squeezed together. Then the curly horn is twisted and set between metal plates in the vice so that when it cools it is no longer a spiral shape, but flattened into the same plane. Finally, they're filed down and bored up the centre so they can be fitted to the shank, carved, polished and varnished.

With the decline in the number of hill sheep being kept in Scotland, there aren't as many horned rams about - so good horns have become hard to find.

Good straight hazel shanks are often just as difficult to come by, and are best cut in late autumn or early winter when they contain less sap. They then have to be left to dry in the rafters of the workshop for a couple of years.

It all takes time and patience.