The old herd is all gone now, all ages, together in the County Antrim countryside and registered as a Pedigree British Friesian herd. That was something I had never considered, mainly because it meant more paper filling and more rules, while I just wanted to get on and farm, but Paul Smyth, their new owner, was keen and when he saw their breeding records he decided the animals were almost as good as pedigree already, so it did not take him much above a year to get the job done. I’m not sure it will make them milk any better, although their reversal back to robotic milking has again raised milk yields to encouraging breed levels. I believe Paul intends to try to get into the market for selling young bulls, and maybe their semen as well.

Another thing he has done, which keeps a link with their history, has been to name the herd after our little hamlet here in Sussex. Its rather a nice touch, since according to Google, there is no other place in the world with the same name, so it should perpetrate the connection for many years to come.

I’ve written several times recently of our local school. We have a very ‘neighbourhood orientated’ community college, and the help the head master, with his staff, have given us over the recent vandalism troubles has been tremendous. They react very quickly to problems, make announcements on the school website and get almost instant reactions, nipping most problems ‘in the bud’. I would like to think this community attitude is common, but I do think they are really quite exceptional. They can usually put a stop to most problems more effectively than the police.

It’s sad, but to regain the respect our constabulary once held, before such things as ‘political correctness’, ‘woke’ and ‘the blame culture’ took hold, the service really needs to get a grip, particularly in the countryside.

One knows from comments heard around the south that our experience seems the ‘norm’ these days. The only way to get the police to show interest appears to some to be to exaggerate the situation, tell of guns or young children, which might stir them into life.

As mentioned before, the predominant reason I even need to call them is because our insurers want to know we have obtained a crime number! So we need to cover ourselves. The police ask us farmers to involve them, then they let both us and themselves down by not following reports up.

Some 14 to 15 years back, my bank set up a specialist agricultural banking division, staffed by people who actually understood farming and, as importantly, the farmers themselves. Dealing with those staff was refreshing since they spoke our ‘language’. They understood the difficulties caused by weather, EU-inspired political ‘brainfade’ (like the now-abandoned, hopefully permanently, three crop rule) and disease restrictions over the likes of TB, along with the numerous other problems farms all face from time to time. To have their support and understanding was very reassuring.

I met numerous farmers from across a wide area who dealt with, and spoke very highly of, this specialist unit. Recently most of its top personnel have unfortunately left the bank somewhat disillusioned I’m told, so how long will the department remain?

Like a number of businesses, at certain times we occasionally have a cash surplus. For some brief periods this was loaned, short term (seven days or a month) to the bank, which then lent it on, at a premium. In recent times, however, the UK interest rate has diminished to the point where we couldn’t earn enough from this arrangement to pay for a phone call. Had we done so, the bank was still able to lend this money on, making a good ‘turn’ on it, in the region of, probably 4%, maybe more? So I decided it wasn’t worth lending to them to earn almost nothing while allowing them to then profit from it.

Quite quickly after I stopped giving them this facility, we were advised they would no longer be able to provide us with the services of the ‘agri banking department’. Strange, that? This was despite having paid the bank untold thousands of pounds in bank charges over the past 50-odd years! (I well remember when bank borrowing rates went up to 17%.) But it was a really good service while it lasted. “Thank you, Lucinda and Carol”.

So now we will have to rely on the deskbound bank staff of earlier times. Or ‘online’…. just as the industry faces an unknown period of treble or quadruple ‘whammies’ brought on by what looks like being a predictably difficult break from the EU.

Despite everything, we are probably quite fortunate to have no cattle on the farms any more. We still miss them. And even after almost a year I still wake up at night imagining I can hear them mooing… Old habits?

With all the uncertainties around at the moment, some of which could turn out trivial, one or two of which could well be world shaking, unless some sense is shown amongst the people who have been elected to run the place, may I wish all readers as good a Christmas as you are allowed, a happy and healthy new year and a speedy return to something approaching normality in 2021.