More from my interview with John Going, 94, of Widemouth, who was the first smallholder in the area to use artificial insemination on his cows:
The War changed things. When the War had finished, my father wasn’t in very good health and we were looking for a change. We decided we’d like a smallholding and one of the places that turned up was in Stratton. Then my father died but by then the wheels were already in motion, so that’s where we ended up. Mother came (from Hertfordshire) to look after the house. Things followed a logical progression.
We mainly kept dairy cows and one or two bullocks. In those days, you were told what you were going to do by civil servants. It worked alright. I’d been a farmer in Hertfordshire before the War. I was happy enough as, despite what people said, /i found everyone helpful and we all got on together. Cornwall was then a bit of an unknown quantity, one or two holidaymakers, but not that many. People said: “they won’t have anything to do with you” but I found it to the contrary and made some very good friends. I didn’t really know what to do, as in Cornwall they are all small farms, and I’d had charge of quite a large herd.
Once I started, I thought I’ve got to get these blessed things in calf. I’d always had a bull to work with, but here I was with half a dozen cows and it wasn’t worth keeping a bull. I asked around for what people did and they all went to larger farms that had a bull, so people would trail out there with a cow and hope she didn’t get fed up with it all before they arrived. I was coming home from somewhere one day and i met our local vet. He was an ‘incomer’, too.
He asked where I was going. I told him I was looking for a bull. He said: “you can’t be pestered with all that, so why don’t you try artificial insemination?” I replied: “does it exist round here?” He said yes, and that they’d started a unit in Torrington. It was quite a new thing, so I rang up and asked if I could join the scheme. Did it require any particular breed? No, it didn’t and yes, I could.
So, I signed up and it went very well. Everyone did it eventually. Milk cows needed the calf as a by-product. I had some lovely livestock as a result. This was in the 1950s. Specially trained people came round. We just provided hot water and soap. It was specialist then, with specialist operatives. It was interesting and successful, the choice of bulls was good and improved the livestock. It was very convenient.