IT has been another rather mixed week of weather, with one bright, sunny day which began with a grass frost and a beautiful sunrise. It has been quite breezy for much of the time with a particularly stormy day at the end of the week, during which the line being drawn on our barograph dropped very low. Fortunately it is now rising to a more normal level. Rainfall on Manor Farm has amounted to 23mm.

At this time of year there is plenty of routine work on Manor Farm to keep everyone busy, especially feeding, mucking out and bedding up all the different groups of cattle. Cows are still being dried off for their two months a year break from milking, having their hooves trimmed at the same time. Then there are cows in the 'pre-natal' barn, which have to be regularly checked throughout the day and night. We have also recently begun artificially inseminating our maiden heifers and cows that calved early in the season, hopefully to begin the next calving cycle in the late summer of 2018. The dairy bulls being used have been selected after assessing the traits needing improvement in the cows and to make sure there is no in-breeding.

At the beginning of the week our granddaughter Annabel, a member of the Chippenham Young Farmers' Club (YFC), took part in the county Young Farmers' Club (YFC) stock judging competition, which took place on two farms in Dauntsey. On Olive Mead Farm the finished beef, lamb and pig judging was carried out and there was also a competition for the erection of a stock-proof fence, which was won by Chippenham YFC senior team.

Those members taking part in the stock judging competitions were required to be dressed in smart trousers, shirt and tie with a white buttoned-up coat over the top. They also had to wear a clean pair of boots and their YFC badge.

For each class the competitors were presented with four animals, which had to be put in order based on their use. This was done by observing and understanding the animals' make- up. The candidates were then required to explain their choices clearly.

For each group of livestock 15 minutes were allocated for observing and feeling the animals presented to them, with five minutes to write about their conclusions. For the dairy cows particular attention was paid to legs, feet, udders and body capacity, also a feminine look was important.

Finished lambs must have a good overall shape, remembering that wool can mask a great deal, with attention being paid to the quality of the meat the animal will produce, especially the more expensive cuts, such as the loins. The finished beef must also be the correct shape and once again the competitors were paying attention to the quality of the meat. Finished beef and lamb should also have well-covered ribs. The last group was the finished pigs, assessed in much the same way as the beef and lamb, each pig having to be well balanced and healthy looking. When judging any animal a good top-line is essential.

Following the judging of each class each young competitor had to verbally give reasons for his/her choice. Fifty marks were allocated for the order and another 50 for the verbal section, with 25 for observations, 15 for comparisons and 10 for style and ability.

Chippenham YFC did very well overall, with the senior team winning the fence erecting. Ellie Alvis won the senior finished lamb section and Rob Gooding the senior beef section. Annabel was joint first in the junior beef section with a Malmesbury member, joint first with Rory Ferguson (another Chippenham member) in the junior dairy cow class and won both the junior lamb and beef classes.