AT last all our cereal crops have been planted and the seedlings are showing well as definite rows across the fields. The machinery involved in preparing the arable fields since harvest has been cleaned, serviced, greased and stored safely away until needed again next year. Our agronomist has recently done a crop walk, to particularly check for slug damage, as this can often be a problem with newly germinated seedlings. Fortunately he only found one field with a problem.

The weather has continued to behave in a rather peculiar way with changing temperatures, and some murky, damp days, but there have been a number of glorious sunny days as well. There was also the day when Sahara sand and ashes from Portuguese wild fires was blown to the UK via a warm southerly breeze. What a bizarre effect it had! The sun developed a red hue for most of the morning, with the atmosphere resembling that of an eclipse, and although quite dark, the sky looked most odd.

Although planting crops is complete there are many routine jobs still to be done on Manor Farm. The cows have to be milked twice a day, morning milking begins at 5am and afternoon milking starts at 3pm. All the cattle are now in barns, except for the recently dried-off cows (the cows on their annual two-month holiday prior to calving). Apart from checking the dry cows daily there is feeding, mucking out and bedding up to do on a regular basis. During the last week the loose yard space, used for cows and calves or cows that may be lame or unwell, was mucked out and re-bedded with plenty of fresh straw.

Births continue, although we are nearing the end of those cows due to give birth to dairy Friesian/Holstein calves and have recently seen the arrival of the first of our Aberdeen Angus crosses. Normally we sell all our beef calves at about two weeks of age, but this year we are keeping them all as we seem to have an abundance of grass and conserved forage. We have recently had a visit from our nutritionist to check the feed rations for the different groups of cattle and analyse how the dairy herd is performing.

Kevin and Melissa recently brought 350 wethers (castrated ram lambs) to Manor Farm. Many of our grass fields need grazing before winter sets in, so that growth next spring will be better. The first field selected for the wethers was a new grass ley. The grass planted followed the harvest of winter barley and due to the mild, damp weather has germinated and grown well.

Last week we helped Kevin and the collies round up the wethers for grading, as many of them had reached maturity and a lorry was collecting them the following day.

Chippenham Young Farmers recently raised money for the Countryfile Ramble Children in Need Appeal.Twenty-five members and leaders completed a five-mile ramble, following rights of way around Colerne. I was told that the walk was over all types of terrain, most of which was quite hilly.

A week ago Richard and I attended the AGM and supper of the Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership. The Marlborough Downs group of farmers was founded in 2012, developed and directed by Dr Jemma Batten.

It has supported biodiversity and landscape features via various stewardship schemes. It has implemented conservation projects across 10,370h of chalk downland on 35 farms between Avebury, Marlborough and Swindon. The project was funded for three years, but after reviewing the situation for a year Dr Jemma Batten and the farmers are going to ensure the partnership moves forward with a new project called Space for Nature, which I will tell you more about next week.