IT was a day like no other for the Nicholls family.
They were up at the usual hour, before dawn, to do the milking and tend their 750 Holstein Friesians.
But this would be the last time for most of the herd.
After more than 50 years looking after the cattle at Lower East Middleton farm near Parracombe the transport was coming to take away the first batch for auction at Exeter.
Brian Nicholls was typically practical, with no time for sentimentality.
"It was quite a performance," he said.
"The auctioneers came to clip their faces and ears.
"Seemed a bit silly to give a cow a shave," said Brian with a smile.
"It keeps them a bit cleaner of course," he said of the special grooming for the cows he has tended every day.
"We had to wash them, then they also had a wash at the market.
"There was quite a commotion, it took nearly all day to get them loaded.
"Of course there's no good rushing the cows, or shouting at them.
"They're far stronger than us, you can't go pushing them around if they've a mind not to go."
Eventually the cattle were taken down the lane and onto the main road for their journey to Kivells and Husseys market lairage and the sale on Friday.
Brian and his wife Edna are gradually retiring from the job they have done for the last six decades.
Edna, who managed all the paperwork and feeds the calves, described the day as "really hectic."
She admitted she has not really thought about what will happen after the cattle go.
The couple have two sons, Barry and Graham, who both have sheep flocks and who are shouldering more of the family enterprise.
Barry said: "It went OK, we got through it.
"It took a bit of getting on with.
"There was a good crowd of people down there, and a reasonable lot of buyers, quite a few locals and friends which was nice.
"The cows did us proud."
Brian added: "The auction started off exceptionally well, then there was a bit of a dip in the middle and then it woke up again.
"But we ran out of buyers at the end because there were so many sold.
"All in all it was quite good in this economic climate.
"I've no regrets. It had to be done."