It’s the end of an era here at Scryne. Sadly, Scruffy our very old Jack Russell has gone West, hopefully chasing and yapping after an eternal rabbit, but never quite managing to catch it, as in real life.

She was a loveable, affectionate, if occasionally nippy wee dog to humans, quite happy to jump into anyone’s car in search of a sandwich and a kip if they left the door open, only to be discovered when she started snoring in the back seat many miles later.

Like many of her breed, she was not averse to starting a fight with any other dog, regardless of size, and all we are left with are many memories, not all of them great at the time, but we can laugh about it now. Perhaps the most awkward was having to go down with a spade and a torch in the winter dusk to try and dig her out of a hole in the dunes at East Haven.

Suspicious passers-by thought I was burying a murder victim rather than digging up a determined rabbit hunter. So long Scruff, we loved you to bits, but maybe try and be less of a pain wherever you are.

Scruffy is not the only animal leaving. It has been a very difficult decision, but the cows are going too. There is no one left on the farm who can calve a cow except me, and the prospect of getting a reliable stockman in this part of the country is very unlikely.

I was finding myself drawn into livestock work when I needed to be focussed on strawberries, and frequently pulling key staff off important jobs to help.

Something had to give, and on a relatively dry coastal farm like this, which has a great climate for growing fruit and veg, it had to be the cows.

I was one of the few remaining mixed farmers on the Angus coast, most of the others packed it in many years ago, and as the cattle and sheep have departed, so I think we have also lost a connection with those who farm further west, and those who farmed in the generations past.

Although we don’t (yet) have the added bureaucracy of a National Park here to cope with, as so eloquently described by Robert Macdonald on these pages last week, shortage of skilled labour and a desire to simplify farming businesses have contributed to the overall decline in this part of Scotland to the national beef herd which is down from 447k in 2013 to 395k in 2023 according to the Scottish government census.

Robert made a compelling case for beef and lamb, and with prices for beef over £5.50/kg, and fat lambs apparently making north of £200 I think there remains a strong future for Scotland’s sheep and beef farmers.

I would add to the plus side for livestock that grass in an arable rotation is still one of the best ways to maintain and increase soil organic matter and fertility. We will have to find another way, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another day.

As it is probably the last time I will feel qualified to speak from experience about cows, I want to plead the case for the Blue Grey, and other smaller cows like her. The cow of the future will need to be efficient and able to live outside all year round.

Our autumn calvers have outwintered through the most relentlessly wet winter any of us can remember with their calf, and they look in great shape. At 550- 600kg, they cost much less to keep than bigger breeds.

The ratio of weaned calf to cow weight is incredible for a blue grey. Other breeds do a similar job, but we have always loved the blue grey for its ability to outwinter and for two other reasons.

Firstly, its fertility and low depreciation; our Blue Greys average 9 calves per cow, with some as old as 17, and are worth maybe £200 less than we paid for them when they finally go.

Secondly, with their ability to rear a good-sized calf they are the most efficient cow there is. In 2014, QMS did a Planning for Profit case study on different cattle systems which included ours.

According to P4P - cow efficiency can be measured as kg of calf weaned, adjusted to 200 days, per kg of cow weight. Therefore, a 650kg cow rearing a 280 kg calf has a cow efficiency score of 43. The Planning for Profit study proved calf weaning weight does not increase in proportion to cow weight increasing.

Efficiency tails off rapidly for a cow over 650 kg and is probably best around 550kg: Our cow efficiency score was 54. Our bulls calves finish around 14 months averaging 355kg dead weight, the heifers at 16-18 months at 280-300 kg.

You can’t go wrong with a Blue Grey. Harrison and Hetherington run the annual heifer sale at Lockerbie in October if anyone is interested.

Mixed farming is the original, tried and tested sustainable form of farming in the UK, and my support for it remains undimmed despite my own present circumstances.

There has been strong interest in our cows from Irvine to Inverness, which suggests many others think the same, and they will shortly be off to pastures new, along with their calves.

With the soft fruit, and potentially veg, our summers will remain busy, but our winters will be much quieter without the cows. Sure, like Scruffy, they can be a pain when they wander through a fence on a Sunday in search of a fresh bite, but we will miss them.

Mixed farming is the original, tried and tested sustainable form of farming in the UK, and my support for it remains undimmed despite my own present circumstances.