A DULL and breezy start to the week was followed by longer periods of sunshine than we have seen for a while. It has been very windy at times, but fortunately we seem not to have been in the path of the snowstorms and heavy rain which have affected the north of the country. The line drawn on our barograph has shown quite marked rises and falls in air pressure, so I think we have been quite lucky, to have escaped with only 5mm of rainfall during the week.

Here on Manor Farm we have recently become involved in a programme to help reduce mastitis in our dairy cows post-calving. Our vet routinely visits our farm and on one occasion suggested that we might like to use a product which has been proven to reduce the incidents of clinical mastitis by 28 per cent in the first 30 days after calving. The cow's immune system is depressed at this time and it has been shown that by giving the cows two subcutaneous injections of a particular protein, one seven days prior to giving birth and one within 24 hours of calving, the integrity of the cow's immune system can be restored.

Even with the best herd management mastitis can be a problem, as many of the mastitis-causing pathogens exist naturally in the environment. If the cow's immune system is depressed for any reason, such as it is at calving, the cow will become more susceptible to clinical mastitis. We therefore decided to use the product, which can only be supplied by vets. We had 80 cows left to give birth, so the product supplier was given details of these animals, randomly selecting 40 to receive the injections. We now have to wait and see whether these 40 cows remain healthier than the non-injected group.

Early last week we wormed all our 18-month-old heifers. The wormer used was a broad spectrum one to rid the animals of a wide range of internal parasites that may infect them during their first grazing period. There is one particular parasite, which particularly affects cattle in wet summers, the liver fluke. This fluke has a rather complicated life-cycle and relies on the presence of a snail, which has the Latin name Galba Truncatula, remembered from my college days. The adult fluke complete their life-cycle in the cow's liver producing eggs which are then excreted onto the pasture. In wet conditions the eggs hatch and invade their first host, the snail.

Between August and October the fluke are released from the snail in a swimming stage, after which they develop into a highly resistant non-mobile stage ingested by grazing cattle. These fluke larvae then migrate to the liver, which takes seven weeks. It is therefore essential to kill the adult fluke in cattle housed during the winter, so they will not further infect pasture on turnout in the spring.

On Stowell Farm preparations are being made to house the ewes due to lamb in March. The barns have being cleaned out; lambing pens built; light bulbs checked and replaced if necessary; buckets gathered for use as water containers and feed areas prepared.

Recently the ewes were scanned to see how many lambs each is carrying. The ewes were marked with different colours according the number of lambs each is carrying, singles, twins, triplets or multiples. At the time they were scanned the ewes were given a vaccination to protect them against foot-rot. Foot rot is an infectious, contagious bacterial disease of sheep, that causes severe lameness. It is a flock problem, spreading from sheep to sheep via ground and bedding. The UK climate produces an ideal environment for the disease, with damage to the interdigital skin and moisture allowing the bacteria to enter the foot.