FORTUNATELY, on the build-up to Christmas Day the weather has allowed farming operations to continue without problems. Freezing temperatures and snow can cause major disruption, as water pipes can freeze and significant snowfall can disrupt the collection of our milk. Also tractors can be difficult to start in the early morning. The weather during the early part of the week was rather cold but mid-week the temperature rose dramatically for the time of year. It has been a rather damp and murky with the line on our barograph rising from the low a week ago, to one indicating high air pressure.

Here on Manor Farm, Nathan and James have been mucking out the remaining under-cover yards, used to house all the young stock, before bedding them up with plenty of fresh straw.

The walkways and feed passages in the barn providing winter accommodation for the milking cows are kept clean using automatic scrapers and the cubicle beds are cleaned and bedded up every time the cows are taken to be milked. This is to make sure the cows are kept as clean and comfortable as possible.

We have also had to check our stocks of bought-in feed and chemicals, to ensure we have enough supplies to take us into the New Year, as there are no deliveries over the festive period.

There are still about 20 cows due to give birth, so the cows in the pre-natal wing will still have to be checked regularly, even during the night. We did have a difficult calving during the week and it soon became obvious that we would need the assistance of a vet. The cow involved was found to be carrying twins, which had become tangled up in her uterus and even with the help of our vet they were still-born. Fortunately the cow has recovered from her ordeal.

This year, apart from our dairy heifer calves, we are keeping all our Aberdeen Angus x calves, which will help to utilise some of the surplus grass we seem to be growing.

At the moment we have Kevin's wethers (castrated ram lambs) munching their way around the grass fields on the farm.

During the week Richard and the sheep dogs have been helping Kevin gather and pen sheep for grading. The lambs are run through a race where they are restrained while Kevin checks their health, doing any remedial foot trimming if necessary and finally marking those ready for market with a coloured spray.

At the end of the week the wethers were gathered once again and the marked ones separated out and taken back to Stowell Farm, where a lorry arrived to take them to an abattoir. Richard has also helped Kevin erect some more sheep fencing, before moving some of the remaining sheep onto fresh grass. Back on Stowell Farm all the rams have been separated from the ewes and will be housed for the rest of the winter.

All the crops planted in the autumn are looking well at the moment and will hopefully grow on next year to produce good yields of barley, wheat and oilseed rape, but when farming we never can be sure what pests, weeds and diseases may arise each year due to varying weather.

I have been continuing my work at Roves Farm as one of Santa's elves, helping the children (and some of the adults) to make a variety of Christmas decorations.

Now I would like wish everyone a very Happy New Year.