Last month, for the first time in my life, I didn’t bother to vote.

Over the years I have become used to government indifference to farming. This government has taken things a step further in agreeing with other countries deals in which British agriculture was the trade-off.

In addition, it has not reciprocated to EU bans, posing as health issues, on our livestock. As Boris knows, the trade agreements with New Zealand and Australia will really bite after he is gone. Signs are that Australia is already increasing beef production.

The EU ban has affected us badly. We had a good and developing trade with the EU for breeding cattle. Since Brexit, despite our acceptance of EU livestock under the pre-existing health protocols, the EU have made sales to the Continent so difficult as to virtually kill the trade.

Boris’s fighting talk about defending the Ukraine hasn’t been the same in his defence of farming’s interests. Brexit for us is certainly not ‘done’, nor ever like being ‘done’. The only answer I have is to deny him my vote.

For all that, ‘it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good’. It is tempting when trade is buoyant to sell more that is good for the business.

It has always been our policy when we select replacement heifers to keep a few more than we really need to keep up our herd numbers. While EBVs undoubtedly improve the selection process over simply picking the best looking, additional factors which cannot always be given a number kick in when a heifer enters production.

Some, which we rate highly, disappoint. Others, lower in our estimation, become our best producers. As a large part of our market disappeared in 2021, we took the chance to keep even more heifers than usual and will evaluate them over the next few seasons.

We can’t go on repeating the process so last month, as reported in The SF, we held our first online sale of heifers. Thanks to Josh Dowbiggin’s efforts, we were please with how it went.

While the high-priced animals grabbed the headlines, what were – in our own opinion – some good heifers made moderate prices which may encourage new breeders to develop their herd in the same way we did half a century ago. The improvement in Angus seedstock available today, compared with the choice I had in the 1970s, is immense.

I have been asked since the sale if online auctions were the way forward. It certainly had some benefits, provided the description and photos of the animals are realistic, and buyers were confident that the cattle they bought were what they expected.

The heifers don’t need to be in such forward condition as would be necessary when sold through the live ring, which not only saved a feed bill but helped their future productive capacity.

An important benefit was that their high health status was not risked by contact with cattle from many different sources, as happens at the mart.

The answer to the original question, was that online auction had its advantages, particularly in this era of social media and internet communication. It will always be more relevant in some overseas countries, where long distances are such a factor.

For us, it was new and exciting. For most, it will be an alternative, rather than a replacement for the live auction.

I attended the farm sale at Ellemford, in the Lammermuirs, where the topic on everyone’s tongues was the intention of the farm’s new owners to plant 700 acres with trees. Throughout my life, planting has been on poorer hill land and even then, has usually been controversial.

The proposed area at Ellemford included fields of improved pasture. On reflection, under normal conditions, when someone exits, it should be better for those remaining.

Unfortunately, the laws of supply and demand don’t apply to farming as our governments will find someone, somewhere to fill the shortfall, however it is produced.

Although it was a wee while since his death, I could hardly forbear not to write something about my old friend Willie McLaren. My own background in commercial suckled calf production resulted 50 years ago in a speedy evaluation of the pedigree breeders of the time hoping to sell me bulls.

Most then and many today have a primary objective of winning shows and getting high prices for individual animals. Others see the wider picture and, while not ignoring these things, realise that the purpose of a pedigree animal was to breed efficient producers of high-quality meat in a commercial situation. Willie was undoubtedly in the second group.

In the darkest days of the Aberdeen Angus breed, Willie not only supported local and national shows but, unusually for a top breeder, entered his young bulls in the primitive performance programmes of the time.

Around then, he invited my teenage son to stay and accompany the family to a couple of shows to help with the cattle. ‘Great oaks from little acorns grow’ and that week was greatly appreciated then and well-remembered today.

Over the years, the Netherton cattle went from success to success in the show and sale rings and were popular with commercial producers throughout Britain and Ireland. A decade or so ago, Willie put together a visual presentation of the history of the A-A breed both during his lifetime and also before.

Some friends, Bob Anderson, retired CEO of the UK AA Society; Eddie Gillanders, long time aficionado of the breed; and I, when we could see Willie’s health declining, persuaded him to have his presentation ‘polished professionally’.

This remarkable and I suspect unique record of the breed, seen through the eyes of one of its most notable breeders, is now available on a memory stick, so Willie’s memorial exists, not only in his cattle now in the capable hands of his son, William, but also in a form that is worldwide and everlasting.