THE weather has continued in a pattern set over the last few weeks. There have been periods of sunshine, cloud cover, wind and occasional few spots of rain. Except for one recently harvested field of maize all our winter cereals have been planted, which is a great relief after the long delay caused by the wet weather.

The drilled fields have continued to dry, enabling them to be rolled, producing a better growing environment for the newly planted seeds.

On a recent walk around Manor Farm Richard and I found that the seeds were beginning to germinate, although the young shoots were not yet appearing above ground level.

On Chuggaton Farm in North Devon, son-in-law Steve has at last managed to plough, cultivate and plant a field of winter wheat. This will be harvested to make whole crop silage, which will be used to balance the diet of the cows and heifers due to calve before the forage maize is ensiled next year. The variety of wheat Steve has planted is Crusoe, which is also good for milling. It has good disease resistance, high protein content and is high yielding.

For the last 60 days the cattle on Chuggaton Farm have been on movement restriction due to one inconclusive TB test result. The cow with the inconclusive result was retested last week. Fortunately on this occasion the cow showed a negative result, so as soon as the paperwork is completed Adele and Steve will be able to sell their beef calves via a normal trading route.

When under TB restriction farmers have access to dedicated markets, but the prices paid for calves are always much lower than on the open market. Adele looks after all the calves on the farm, amassing a grand total of 39 dairy heifer calves born since mid- August, a very high number. Now she is pleased that she will be able to sell the beef calves born this season, under normal trading conditions, as the calf housing area is nearing capacity.

Adele and Steve have also had another problem. Their ground has been a great deal wetter than ours and they have the added burden that the farm is situated within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ ). An NVZ is a conservation designation of the Environment Agency for land that drains into nitrate polluted or waters which could become polluted by nitrates.

In England 58 per cent of land comes within an NVZ. This means, among other things, that Adele and Steve have added restrictions on fertiliser/manure/slurry management.

Their farm is predominantly grassland and the closed period for slurry spreading onto grass is October 15 to January 31. Fortunately Steve was able to spread the remaining slurry from his store at the end of the week, so the farm should now have enough room to store all slurry collected during the closed period.

Returning to Stowell farm, most of the time is being spent checking sheep. The dogs have also been busy helping to gather flocks to move to fresh pasture. Many of the wethers (castrated ram lambs) have been moved onto forage rape. Forage rape is a quick growing protein-rich green forage, which is sown from April to August, providing forage 12 weeks later. It is an excellent feed for finishing lambs. Kevin has also been preparing and planting arable ground with winter wheat.

Here on Manor Farm Richard and Ian decided that it would be a good idea to let sheep graze some of our grass fields. The damp mild weather has kept the grass growing and it could now do with grazing in order to produce good crops of grass next spring.

Melissa and Kevin fenced the first field the lambs will move into, a newly planted grass ley.

Our first set of dairy heifer twins, born eight weeks ago, have just been weaned. At birth one was unable to stand, but with lots of tender loving care she now looks as well as her sister.