Over the years we have all developed ways to lift Downer cows – or at least since we had decent front end loaders – yet still struggle with variable results.

Many years ago, when big fertiliser bags came in we hit upon the idea of cutting a bag to form a big sling and then, having slid this under her by rolling the animal, we had an excellent soft lifter. It did mean two men were needed twice or three times a day but usually after a couple of days the animal had regained sufficient confidence and was able to get up – to everyone’s relief, because it’s not much of a job! For everyone who has done this, it’s extremely rewarding when you see the cow on her feet again. But not all did recover.

Then I was persuaded to buy a cradle, a frame with a sling under it, and regretted it from day one. It took much positioning to get the animal on it but the worst part was actually removing the thing when the animal actually stood on her own. With the fertiliser bag system you could simply slowly lower it, let her take her weight and then slip it out from under her. But with that damn sling, her feet had to be put through holes and so it was then virtually impossible to get it out from under her legs without her getting entangled and tripping on the sling before it could be removed. It was a disaster and was used about twice before being put in a farm sale. I hope the buyer never had cause to use it.

Now today we have this scissor type clamp recommended by a vet and clamping on the hips. God knows why, because my own view is that it is the harshest bit of apparatus to inflict on an animal. The only plus is that one person can operate it. Yet I’m pretty sure if the cow could talk she would plead to be spared the option.

Like most unirrigated farms in the south, the breaking of the recent drought in mid May came just in the nick of time. On one 20 acre new ley sown in mid Septemeber – which had a very light shower the evening it was put in then nothing for six weeks – so many seeds were just germinating and then failed, only to be patched up again and broadcast in early March.

Then they hit that recent long dry spell. Again very few germinated for some seven weeks. Yet the weeds did. Not wanting to spend too much more on it, the weeds – mainly thistles – have been sprayed and topped off and we now have about 85% of a grass crop for the summer. As I write the farm is presently bursting with grass, the silage clamp is full and we are overdone with wrapped silage bales for drystock. Yet as if we didn’t already know it, we really rely on average weather. Extremes, particularly of drought, can really be disastrous.

Given the continuing dry weather at the end of April, I was of two minds whether to actually drill any maize at all but finally took the plunge. For another two weeks even that looked pretty hopeless as the seed lay in the ground doing nothing until the rain finally came. As I write in mid June, the weather has saved our bacon and the crop is now back on target for the Fourth of July.

We have recently been troubled, as many farmers are these days, by trespassers. One group of youths recently got onto a stack of barn stored big bales of barley straw where they proceeded to cut the strings, use it as a slide and spread it all over the barn floor wasting some 20 tonnes. Then a day or two later we had a woman trying to catch her uncontrollable Staffordshire bull terrier type creature taking lumps from the heels of a bunch of seven months pregnant down calving heifers. Not a pleasant sight.

In both these cases I rang the police 101 line where I had to wait for more than 15 minutes before I could speak to a human voice. I do get quite pissed off being told, by recorded phone message: “We appreciate your call, we are very busy at the moment, please hold on for the next available operator. We thank you for your patience.” I now ring 999.

Next evening two officers did actually appear and said they would contact the local schools while another said she would put the wildlife officers in touch. But what good that will do days later? Now after a month they still haven’t come.

Finally I wrote them a letter telling them of my concerns. They wrote back, a week later, thanking me for contacting them, and said they would be back in 24 hours: nothing more. Except they sent the identical letter again the next day!

I think rural policing is a lost art now. Convictions should be of secondary importance, just an occasional officer’s appearance on foot is the best deterrence.

After the recent general election campaign, I emailed police headquarters at Lewes with a comprehensive resume of their performance. This time the only difference was I copied it to our newly returned MP, and the editor of our well regarded local newspaper. The result was pretty stunning: more police on the farm than I have ever seen and promises of action.

For every other farmer suffering from police disinterest, I recommend you do the same thing. They are busy, and understaffed, but rural communities nationally deserve much better than we are getting. As the old saying goes: “The squeaky axle gets the grease.”