IT has been another mixed week of weather. Just as the ground started to look a little drier, we had damp, murky days filling in between those that were much sunnier and warmer. Rainfall only amounted to 15.5mm throughout the week, but with shortening day length the ground never dried enough to allow us to continue preparations for planting our winter cereal crops and time is marching on.

Towards the end of the week our forage maize was ready to harvest for silage. The contractors were booked and when they arrived the sun was shining, but as they got ready to move into the last field it began to rain. The decision was made to carry on with the harvest. Fortunately the rain did not amount to much, but not ideal conditions to ensile our maize crop.

This year harvesting was not easy as large areas of the crop were flat. We are not sure why this happened except the maize was particularly tall quite early in its growth cycle and the cobs large and heavy. Due to the state of the crop at harvest there was quite a large loss of cobs, which could be seen scattered across the fields when the contractors moved out. During the harvest Richard, Ian and James were kept busy clearing mud from the road, brought out of the fields on the wheels of the tractors and trailers as they took the cut, chopped maize back to the silage clamp at Manor Farm.

At least our maize is now in the clamp, covered, sealed and weighed down with large bales of straw, which should mean that the air has been removed to allow the correct fermentation to produce some good quality feed for our cattle.

Whilst the maize was being gathered a product containing lactic acid bacteria, usually lactobacillus plantarium, was added to the chopped plants. These are bacteria which occur naturally on the plants, but increasing the number, especially when harvesting conditions are not ideal, will deliver improved fermentation and better stability of the crop.

Following maize harvest Nathan topped the stubble in preparation for ploughing. Maize stubble is quite tall and without topping would be more difficult to incorporate into the soil. Ian has been applying a herbicide to some of our cereal stubble fields, cultivated post harvest, where weeds have germinated.

On Stowell Farm, a representative from the Signet Sheepbreeder Service arrived recently to fat scan the lambs born early in the year to 100 selected ewes which had been artificially inseminated. For this procedure the lambs have to be restrained. The fat over the muscle on the loin area, at the third lumbar vertebra of each lamb is then located, the wool parted and a little liquid paraffin applied before the transducer is placed on the site. Three measurements are taken 1cm apart starting with the deepest and the average recorded. Taking and recording these readings on the Signet sheep scheme will give estimated breeding values of the lambs.

The rams on Stowell Farm have just had their annual MOT. This is when a vet checks their teeth, testicles, feet, legs, eyes and general health before the breeding cycle begins again.

Our grandchildren Natasha and Annabel have recently taken part in Chippenham Young Farmers' Club (YFC) Sheep Show. This is when club members take part in competitions with lambs they have trained to walk on a halter.

There are different categories, including those for finished and breeding lambs. The young farmers have to prepare their lambs for show and are judged on their turnout and handling skills, when standing and walking the lambs for inspection. The lambs are also judged for condition and a variety of conformation traits. The judges travel to each farm where young people are taking part, which means that no animal movements on or off a farm.The results have not yet been announced.