Good news. Our suckler cow, whose previous TB test was inconclusive, has been retested and is clear. A huge relief for all. The cow, a ten year-old Simmental x Hereford, hated being kept in isolation, so consequently a previously amenable animal turned cranky.

She calved recently and her maternal hormones went into overdrive; she became fiercely protective. Unfortunately, her newly born calf was convinced that the milk bar was situated between its mother’s front legs. When we ventured into the pen to nudge the calf in the right direction, the cow went for us. This was no idle threat – she meant business. It’s surprising, even at our tender age, quite how nimbly it’s possible to exit speedily over cattle hurdles when needs must.

It’s time consuming getting a halter onto an uncooperative, tetchy cow to safely assist the calf in getting that all-important colostrum feed. It took a couple of sessions to accomplish getting the calf to clue up. Cow and calf now look good. Today this cow was so happy when she was allowed to rejoin the herd, she frolicked around the shed and her calf was delighted to gain some playmates. It was a joy to behold. With an inconclusive record she will remain on our holding, but that won’t change our management. It’s random how a cow reacts to one test but has no reaction to another.

At the time of writing this, we are enjoying colder, brighter weather. It makes a pleasant change from the incessant wet and gloomy winter in the lead up to 2024. It’s finger cold, but certainly makes checking sheep easier when you’re not stodging about in mud and water.

The sheep are doing better and look happier in cold, drier conditions. As the four-wheel drive has again broken on Shrek (ATV), I’m dreading the return of slippery slopes and boggy patches that require certain crazy driving skills to negotiate.

I’ve only once had to be rescued. After two failed attempts to get up a slope, I had the bright idea to try reversing up it. This was disastrous; Shrek simply slewed around and slid at alarming speed towards the river bank. Not in the mood for a swim, I abandoned Shrek, seeking assistance which was not immediately forthcoming.

I put blocks behind the back tyres and trekked home. The step counter on my watch celebrated this activity, although I was less ecstatic. I was accompanied by three sheepdogs and a spaniel who walked perfectly to heel despite the surprising amount of traffic in the country lane (thanks to yet another road closure diversionary route). Luckily the dogs sensed my anxiety and realised the necessity of behaving.

On the subject of swimming, I found an old family photo of us swimming in the stream that runs through our farm when sluice boards were used during the summer, days long gone. Not long ago I learnt from someone who works for the Environment Agency that although they continue taking water samples from the river, the agency is no longer responsible for sampling at water treatment/sewage works. I’m told this task is now done ‘in house’. I realise it’s probably a money saver, but forgive my scepticism. Is this really for the greater good of the environment and water users or shareholders?

Going slightly off-piste, but definitely a topical conversation in most households, is the scandalous happenings within the post office. It’s totally wrong and so sad that it took a drama series on TV to highlight the failure of the legal system to get to the truth. Is the justice system for the ordinary person in this country fit for purpose?

I was truly shocked to learn how innocent sub-postmasters/mistresses had their lives ruined by this miscarriage of justice. I hope those who profited from this debacle are ashamed of their greed.

In the media Jeremy Clarkson shares his thoughts on farming with the urban population, his latest conclusion being that it is not possible to make a living wage from farming. He claims he’s ‘screwed’ on Diddly Squat Farm. He points out that this is not exclusively a UK problem and that European farmers have been demonstrating, with protests being held in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Strangely no mention of the French farmers protesting which I thought unusual. I look forward to seeing the next Clarkson’s Farm series.

I understand that Kaleb Cooper has done a rap about his dislike of sheep; it’s entitled
I can’t stand sheep, and any profit will go to the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution. The RABI aims to provide financial guidance and practical care for those within the farming community so that no one faces adversity alone. Well done Kaleb for choosing to support the RABI, but really, did you have to pick on sheep? I feel sheep are unjustly maligned, I rather like them and am wondering if a positive sheep rap might be in order.

I don’t usually watch Countryfile because I end up feeling annoyed, but I enjoyed the positive spin highlighting female auctioneers. I hope we see more markets embracing this new trend; it wouldn’t do for male auctioneers to get complacent.

I’m disappointed that I can no longer look up individual auction marts prices on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) website. It was quick and easy, with prices available on the evening of sale day. This was a useful guide if I wanted to take animals to market the next day. Getting this same information from the Livestock Auctioneers Association seems to be slower to access, unless you want to pay a monthly fee.

I’m told that the Government is keen to encourage people of a certain age to downsize. I’m not inclined to move out of our farmhouse anytime soon, but I have downsized my chainsaw to a small electric one; so light and handy to use. It’s brilliant, especially as we’re increasingly experiencing high winds that damage trees. I’ve kept my heavy two-stroke monster for the big jobs.

Our children bought us theatre tickets for Christmas, to see The world according to Kaleb in Eastbourne. It could prove entertaining; update to follow.

As South East Farmer was about to go to press, The Times reported that the Environment Agency would be taking over responsibility for monitoring how well private companies met their targets, rather than the companies themselves.