IT has been a rather stormy week, with a noticeable drop in morning and evening temperature. Between the storms there has been a mixture of cloud cover, sunshine and wind, but the torrential rain and hail which fell for about five minutes at the end of the week was the most violent storm so far. Total rainfall for the week was 41 mm (not far short of two inches). This has just about halted all land work and we are now nearing the time when all our winter crops will need to be sown.

Although hedge-trimming has continued, we have not been able to access some of the fields which have been cultivated in readiness for planting. Hopefully the weather will soon improve to allow field operations to continue.

Work during the week has mainly involved our cattle, moving small groups of dry cows (cows on their two-month holiday prior to calving) to different fields and those closer to giving birth into barns, where they can be fed a pre-calving ration and checked more easily.

We have also moved our yearling heifers to fresh pasture where they will also be given a supplementary feed ration as the autumn grass, although still rather lush, has low feed value.

Our dairy cows continue to give birth, with 19 heifer calves born so far. The heifer calves remain with their mothers for about 48 hours, after which they go to the 'nursery' where they are individually penned, but still able to see and touch noses with their next door neighbours whilst they are being fed milk. They are also given forage and a special calf concentrate before they are weaned at six to eight weeks of age. Penning them individually allows us to monitor their health and well-being more easily, as we can see if a calf is not eating or drinking, also if it is scouring or showing any other signs of illness. It also helps to prevent the spread of any infection that might arise and stops bullying which is inevitable as there is always a pecking order in every group of animals.

At the start of the week Richard and I went to visit our daughter Adele and her family who live on Chuggaton Farm in North Devon. The weather was a little damp whilst we were there, but that did not spoil our visit. We helped get the cows in for afternoon milking and back to their field following morning milking.

After the cows have been milked in the afternoon they spend the night in a field next to the farm buildings, with free access to a supplementary feed and cubicle beds. However, the fields were so wet that son-in-law Steve thought that he would have to bring the milking cows into their winter accommodation permanently unless the weather improved.

I have to say their ground was a great deal wetter than ours and some of the fields that their cattle had been in were already poached. Poaching is damage caused to sward or turf by the feet of livestock, when the soil is wet. Hooves cause compaction of the soil surface leaving depressions 10-12cm deep. This can lead to the formation of a layer of grey anaerobic soil, where naturally occurring organisms are not able to carry out their normal activity. If animals are kept in poached fields, it can lead to serious welfare issues, including lameness and mastitis.

We also helped feed the 26 heifer calves born recently. Adele and Steve rear their calves using the same system as us, individually penned with their own ration of calf concentrate and fresh water. The calves did not take long to drink their milk and got very excited when bedded up with fresh straw.

A few days after our visit to Devon Adele told us that she had received the results of some silage analyses. Their whole-crop silage (whole-crop silage is made from cereal crops, usually wheat, when the grain, leaf and stem is harvested before full ripeness and stored to make silage), second and third cut grass silage, were all found to be of very high quality, with excellent digestibility, crude protein and dry matter.