HERE on Manor Farm, the arrival of a substantial snowfall at the beginning of the week created a picture postcard Christmas scene.

Unfortunately, for a day or two, travelling around the county and beyond was badly disrupted and due to an even heavier fall of snow around Swindon Roves Farm had to be closed for two days. The week has been cold, feeling especially so when the northerly wind increased in strength. Cloud cover has been prevalent during the days, with a total precipitation of 37 mm.

With more time at home than I expected, I was able to spend much loved time in my kitchen making Christmas biscuits, mince pies and some cranberry cheese to accompany the turkey on Christmas Day. I also put the finishing touches to Christmas cakes that I have made for the family.

On Manor Farm routine work continues and several more Aberdeen Angus x calves have been born during the week. Everyone is doing their best to make sure that we all have some time, between milking the cows, to spend enjoying Christmas festivities with our families. However, when you have animals you are always on duty and the unexpected can occur.

If there is any spare time it is spent fencing as some of the fences are in need of repair or replacement. Some of the replacements are post and rail, while others are barbed wire, which has broken or become slack due to rotted wooden posts.

Time has also been taken to clear back low branches and any other invasive growth.When our cattle are grazing we normally erect an electric fence just inside the field perimeters. This prevents the animals from pushing through the fences behind or injuring themselves on the barbed wire or fall into ditches. This double fencing gives us greater assurance that our cattle are unlikely to escape.

During the week Richard attended an NFU Regional Dairy Board meeting in Taunton, as I was unable to be there. On his return he said that the meeting had been interesting and informative.

Two presentations were given, one by Dr Shelly Rhodes and Aga Dabrowska from APHA (the Animal and Plant Health Agency) informing the attendees about the Interferon-gamma test used to detect the presence of Bovine TB; the other by Michael Masters (Barbers Milk supply manager) on the pricing of milk using milk futures contracts to mitigate milk market volatility.

A hypothetical example is for a farmer to commit a percentage of his milk at a fixed price for the following year. Barbers began making Cheddar cheese in 1883 and are still producing traditional Cheddar cheese today, sourcing milk from their own herds and from those of neighbouring farmers in the West Country.

The Interferon-gamma test is a blood test used alongside the tuberculin skin test to maximise the probability of detecting TB-infected animals in cattle herds affected by Bovine TB. The Interferon-gamma test is more sensitive and will identify infected bovines as early as three to five weeks following infection.

It can be repeated immediately, if this is necessary, and the animals only have to be handled once, instead of twice, to obtain a test result. Hopefully all the measures now in place will help to eradicate Bovine TB.

Whilst on a ramble around Manor Farm I came across a lime tree with several bunches of mistletoe hanging from its branches. Mistletoe is a hemiparasite as it does perform a little photosynthesis. It has a root system that is embedded in the trunk, branches or twigs of host trees through which it absorbs water and nutrients and can cause stunted growth or even death of the host plant if infestation is heavy.

Now it only remains for me to wish you all a very Happy Christmas.