What a strange month April has been. Not only have we had snow, very little rain, early morning ground frosts, a chilly breeze from the north and east and apparently the coldest April on record for a hundred years.

However the long spells of sunshine have cheered us up a little as we head on towards summer when we will hopefully be able to meet up with more friends and family.

On Manor Farm the ground remains quite dry despite the damp day mid-week. It is however the prolonged spell of cold weather coupled with the dry which has had the most impact on our crops. The grass is still struggling to grow and there are still patches of wheat and barley looking stressed, following the wet weather earlier in the year. That being said, both Kevin and Ian seized the opportunity to spread some nitrogen fertiliser on their winter wheat and barley while the ground was damp. This will help the nitrogen get into the soil, to provide valuable nutrients for the growing crops.

Another job was to move our Angus cattle onto fresh pasture. Before this was done each animal was treated with a fly repellent. Then thirty of the 80 heifers (young female cows) and steers (castrated bulls) were transported in a stock trailer to a large field of permanent pasture, which should provide them with enough grass for a while. The other 50 animals were moved on foot as they were driven along a fenced track to another large field of permanent pasture not too far away, with no roads to go along or cross. The Anguses have all settled down in their new surroundings. Ian also helped Kevin put some fly repellent on the 300 shearlings (ewe lambs , born spring 2020). They were also split into two groups, with half remaining on Manor Farm and the rest moved to fresh pasture using the stock trailer. Every week the lambs born just after Christmas this year are weighed to identify those that have achieved finished weight for sale. Another large group was collected mid-week, although the price has fallen a little, it is still better than the same time last year.

Sheep work also involved taking the last few ewes and their lambs out to the park to join the rest of the later lambing flock. A small nursery of young lambs remains at the farm, which still have to be bottle-fed twice a day. But lambing is now over for 2021. Melissa recorded all the offspring of the elite flock of 100 ewes onto the Signet system. Signet Breeding Services provides performance recording services for both sheep and beef producers. At various times during their early growth to maturity the ewe and ram lambs will be assessed for conformation, which will provide each one with an estimated breeding value. EBVs provide a recognised way to add value to your sheep and improve your flock. There is increasing commercial demand, so recording will improve your marketing and identify ewes and rams with superior breeding indexes.

During the week I went to see what the bluebells looked like in the wood which borders the farm. I have to tell you it was a wonderful sight, a blue carpet of flowers stretching out under the canopy of sunlit trees. Now the white blackthorn blossom has faded , the trees are becoming increasingly cloaked in their new leaves. The birds are all busy nesting, with the air full of birdsong. We have quite a few woodpeckers busy drumming away on trees, not only to find food, but to announce their presence. I noticed today that the swallows which returned to my home a few weeks ago have made use of an old nest and the female is already sitting. An abundance of hedgerow and roadside flowers are in full bloom, including white dead nettles, cowslips, ground ivy, pink campion and cow parsley.