AT the beginning of the week Richard and I visited our daughter Adele and her family on Chuggaton Farm in North Devon, spending a long weekend celebrating our grandson's 18th birthday.

The only downside was the weather, which was very wet. However, Adele and I did manage to find a dry hour to take her two horses for an enjoyable hack along the lanes around the farm.

During the previous night the rain had been very heavy and there were several places along the banks where water was gushing out onto the road, turning it into a river. I am pleased to say that on our return to Manor Farm frosty mornings have been followed by plenty of sunshine.

On Chuggaton Farm there are now less than 20 milking cows left to calve, with the majority of them due to give birth by the end of the month.

As on Manor Farm the first-born calves of the season are Freisian/Holsteins, which will join the milking herd in two years' time. Most of these calves are now weaned and the Aberdeen Angus x calves now being born are sold on to be reared for beef, so Adele is finding her job of feeding the calves getting easier, following an intense period of births. Adele's husband Steve is kept very busy feeding, mucking out and bedding up the different groups of cattle now in barns for the winter and of course there is always milking to be done twice a day. Steve and Adele are fortunate to have found a local lady to help them do several milking sessions every week, as there are now very few people willing to do this job.

Here on Manor Farm, apart from routine work, James and Nathan have been helping to repair and replace some of the fences. Now is a good time to do this sort of work, as all the cattle are in barns for the winter.

It is quite a time-consuming job as some of the wire is broken and tangled up in brambles and invasive branches, so first of all this must be cleared, together with any rotten fence posts. Then the new posts and wire can be fixed in place.

Ian has recently done a milk recording, which involves collecting an individual milk sample from each cow during milking. These samples are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results this time indicated that our butterfat percentages were slightly down, so the feed ration being given to the cows was checked to make sure we had the correct balance of nutrients.

The somatic cell counts (SCC), an indication of milk quality, showed an improvement on the previous month's results. The SCC gives a measure of the number of white blood cells in the milk, which rises in response to a mastitis pathogen. If SCCs rise above a predetermined level in the bulk milk sample financial penalties are applied.

We recently sold Faithful, our Aberdeen Angus bull, and have replaced him with a young bull called Rayleigh. Rayleigh was purchased from a farm which is in a Premium Cattle Health Scheme, as the farm primarily breeds pedigree beef cattle for sale. Health schemes, such as this, regularly monitor cattle to ensure they are free from a number of infectious diseases, including Johne's and Leptospirosis. Rayleigh also had to be pre-movement tested for bovine TB, a legal requirement before a bovine animal 42 days or older is moved onto another farm.

Now December has arrived I feel I can mention the word 'Christmas', as I have begun my seasonal job as one of Santa's elves on Roves Farm.