Ian and our agronomist have been regularly examining our growing winter wheat and winter barley crops for any signs of aphids.

Adults and nymphs suck sap from the young plants and are a particular problem in a mild, moist autumn or spring.

Aphids are the vector for a disease called Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus, which can lead to smaller grain size and a huge reduction in yield if the pest is left unchecked. Symptoms of the disease are yellowing of the leaves beginning at the tips, which progresses down the leaves to the stem, causing the plants to be stunted. On discovering large populations in some of our cereal crops Ian has had to spray them with a pesticide, but only after consultation with our agronomist .

Erection of the pop -up tunnels is now making good progress, following a few initial problems, such as difficulty getting the stakes into the ground and making some of the holes in the wrong place, using the wrong screws and putting the cover for the first roof upside-down. Once complete the six pop-ups will be used to house the ewes and their lambs, which will be born next January. Each pop-up will hold 80 ewes with their lambs, but each one will be divided through the middle . This means that the six will hold 12 groups of 40 ewes and lambs.

All the breeding ewe lambs and ram lambs -now just under a year old - have just been vaccinated as an aid to protect them against a number of clostridial diseases including blackleg and dysentery. You may remember that we had an outbreak of blackleg in our Angus x beef cattle, which resulted in losing three animals. Following this we are going to vaccinate all our cattle for clostridial diseases from now on, as these bacteria exist in the environment and can be a problem when certain conditions come together at the same time. Following the vaccinations the ewe lambs were moved onto a new grass ley, which a local farmer needs grazing as it has grown on well since it was planted a few months ago. Many farmers use sheep to graze grass at this time of year as the grass will then grow better in the spring. Sheep are ideal for the job being light with small hooves and Kevin’s ewe lambs are not yet mature. The ram lambs have been brought back to graze a field on Manor Farm.

Recently the ewes due to have their lambs next January have been scanned, so after being rounded up they were transported back to the farm. These 597 ewes were divided into three management groups before the rams were introduced a few months ago. The gestation period for a sheep is 152 days. The results of the scans on all three groups were good, but one group had more triplets, which is not ideal, and there were only 37 empty ewes, out of the total of 597. One flock out of the three has 90 per cent shearlings which are young sheep carrying their first lambs. These ewes will be two years old when they give birth for the first time and the scan showed a particularly good result. There were 202 in this group -15 were empty, 77 carrying single lambs, 92 carrying twins and 18 carrying triplets.

This group was brought into season using teasers - vasectomised rams - before the breeding rams were introduced. After considering the results of the scan, Kevin has decided that next season he will use the natural method of management for all the early lambing ewes.

Finally to say that out of the 597 ewes 560 were pregnant, carrying a total of 1000 lambs.