BROKEN clouds have dominated the weather over the past week, with a good deal of sunshine managing to get through the breaks. A light shower deposited a mere 3mm of rainfall, which for Kevin was fortuitous , as he had just cut some grass for hay. It did feel warm most of the time, making time spent gardening very pleasurable.

I was curious to see just how much rain we have had here on Manor Farm since the beginning of the year, so I added up my recorded amounts. In January we had 79.5 mm, falling almost daily. February's rainfall was a massive 135 mm, again it just kept going. In March we had 62 mm in small amounts through the month and 56 mm in April fell in a few short bursts. In May there was just a splash, with 91.5 mm in June falling in a few very wet spells. This added up to 424mm for the first 6 months of the year still within the range of driest and wettest average annual rainfall for Wiltshire.

Our third cut of grass was picked up at the beginning of the week and is now safely stored in the clamp. You may remember that our 2nd cut was extremely light, only producing 8 trailer loads of chopped grass from 40 acres. This time there were at least 25 loads, so a massive difference.

After a damp start Kevin's haymaking has been quite successful. The grass was cut in rows, so it was soon spread to enable it to dry better. A few days later it was moved again to make sure it would be dried evenly by the sun and wind. At the end of the week the dried grass was ready to bale. The plan was to make a few hundred small bales using our old baler (which seems to break down quite frequently!). If a breakdown occurred, it had been decided that Kevin would complete the baling with his baler, which makes large round bales. I am pleased to say that we managed to make 400 small bales before things started to go wrong. The small bales have all been collected and are now stored ready for the winter.

During the week more finished lambs were collected and as Kevin's agent had at last managed to find a reasonable market for 100 cull ewes, a second lorry arrived to collect them later in the week.

Recently all the ewe lambs (born in the spring of 2019) were vaccinated to protect them from diseases that can cause them to abort their lambs that they will give birth to next spring when they will be 2 years old. Kevin vaccinated his ewe lambs against the two most common of these diseases, Enzootic Abortion of Ewes (EAE ) and Toxoplasmosis (Toxo). EAE is extremely common and is responsible for 50% of all abortions in sheep. It can be brought in from infected replacements, which Kevin does not buy except for a ram now and again to introduce new genetics into the flock. As the disease is shed at birth, the aborted material can be spread from farm to farm by wildlife, remaining in the environment for up to 2 weeks. Toxo comes from cat faeces, with one faeces able to infect up to 100 sheep, spreading from the pasture, bedding and sometimes the feed. Prevention by using vaccination, cleanliness, only buying in from accredited flocks and culling any ewes that abort are the best ways to remain free of these diseases.

Kevin's father Francis recently noticed that some of the lambs, born in the spring this year , were not growing as well as they should have been. It was decided to blood test a few and they were found to be deficient in cobalt. Cobalt deficiency is most commonly found in weaned lambs at pasture, indicating low soil concentration. Symptoms include poor growth, poor quality wool and a generally unwell look . Cobalt is a constituent of vitamin B12, which is manufactured by micro-organisms in the rumen (the first stomach ). Vitamin B12 is an essential component of a number of enzymes involved in normal metabolism.