FOLLOWING the freezing conditions of the previous week, we awoke to a rapid thaw, which began on the first day of my week. From temperatures which never rose above 0C, we now have a warm more southerly air-stream bringing with it more rain, another 30 mm, including rain equivalent from melted snow.

We are, however, pleased that the difficulties, brought about by ice, snow and freezing winds, have given way to milder weather and that both animals and workforce feel more comfortable.We did have one burst pipe, but this has now been fixed.

However, in some wetter patches of ground in our arable fields, the winter wheat and barley are looking a little stressed, the leaves having turned rather yellow. The plants will soon need an application of fertiliser to supply nutrients to the growing plants following the winter, but this must be done in optimum conditions to maximise nutrient uptake and prevent losses into the environment, which may cause pollution of water courses.

We recently hosted a meeting on our farm, when a group of farmers and our vet were invited to come and see our young calves. As part of a trial we have altered the way we feed them, weaning at 10 weeks of age instead of six, giving them a specially formulated milk powder which contains a supplement said to boost the animals' immune system.

Farmers at the moment are under pressure to reduce the use of antibiotics on their farms, so if we can help to reduce the occurrence of diseases it will help. The meeting was held on one of the very cold days, so after taking a good look at the young calves in the barn we returned to our house to have hot drinks and very tasty Cornish pasties, before participating in some discussion.

During the last week 40 of the older calves (those born from the end August to then end September) were given the first of two oral vaccinations to protect them against lungworm. Husk, as it is commonly known, is caused by parasite and readily affects cattle with no immunity, such as calves during their first grazing season. Cattle pick up lungworm by ingesting the adults whilst grazing. The parasite then penetrates the intestinal wall, from where it migrates to the lungs via the bloodstream. Once in the bronchi the eggs are laid containing fully developed larvae that hatch almost immediately. These larvae migrate to the trachea, from where they are coughed up onto the pasture and the cycle begins again. The larvae can also be excreted in the faeces.

During the week Richard helped to deliver a set of twins. Ian was milking and had asked him to check on a cow in the pre-natal barn that looked as if she was about to calve. When Richard arrived at the barn a little later the cow had made no progress, so he decided to examine her. He found she was expecting twins and with his help it was not long before two Aberdeen Angus x heifers were born. The cow is called Lilly and is now four years old. She has always given birth to Angus x calves. The first two calvings produced bulls so she has no dairy daughters on the farm. She is has produced very good milk yields averaging more than 10,000 litres over both completed lactations, with butterfat content of about 3.8 per cent, protein of 3.3 per cent and a somatic cell count (indicates udder health) of 93 in her first lactation but rising to a slightly high 289 in her second lactation.

On Stowell Farm, the small flock of ewes, with lambs born as a result of artificial insemination, have been returned to the field they were in before the snow arrived. When I saw them a few days ago they looked very happy to be out once again.