IN all it has been rather a damp, depressing week. We did, however, have one lovely sunny day, but after a very wet weekend, with 33mm of rain, we did not have a dry day for the remainder of the week, even though the rainfall was not measurable on one day. In the end total rainfall on Manor Farm amounted to 46 mm (not far off two inches).

Here on Manor Farm, Richard and I continue to check Kevin's sheep every day, apart from the days when more sheep are selected for sale as finished lambs, usually once every fortnight. Walking across the fields is very hard work at the moment, as the ground is so wet. I nearly lost a wellington boot in the mud a few days ago.

Fortunately the sheep residing on our farm are in good health and we have not come across any problems so far. Their thick woolly fleeces keep them warm, trapping lots of warm air between the fibres, also the abundance of lanolin on the wool keeps the sheep dry. Lanolin is known as wool grease and is secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. Lanolin's waterproofing property helps sheep shed water from their coats.

On Stowell Farm the ram lambs born to a small group of ewes last year, as a result of artificial insemination, have recently been moved from a grass field to one with stubble turnips. Stubble turnips are a fast growing catch crop (a crop which can be grown between plantings of a main crop) which can be ready within 12-14 weeks from sowing. Stubble turnips are an ideal food for young lambs, with the flexibility of sowing period from mid-summer to January. Some of the pregnant ewes have also been moved to fresh pasture and 450 have been housed in a barn at the farm in readiness for lambing at the beginning of March.

On Chuggaton Farm, in North Devon, our daughter Adele and her husband Steve have been watching the level of slurry in their large store keep rising. We have experienced a prolonged period of wet weather, but they have had even more rain. Their farm is situated within an NVZ (Nitrate Vulnerable Zone), which means that slurry cannot be spread onto pasture from October 15 to January 31, a cross-compliance rule.

In NVZs there are closed periods for the spreading of manufactured fertilisers and organic manures with a highly available nitrogen content. This is to prevent nitrogen finding its way to water courses, when crops are not growing. Farmers, however, are expected to have slurry stores that will hold at least five months worth of slurry, but in exceptionally wet seasons overfull stores can become an issue, with a derogation having to be obtained.

The cows on Chuggaton Farm are milking well and Adele has just told me that during the week, three of the last four cows left to calve have given birth to Aberdeen Angus x calves. This means there is now only one cow left to give birth this season.

I am pleased to report that, after a great deal of upheaval, their new 10,000-litre refrigerated milk tank is now installed and in use. Following its installation the farm was inspected by their milk buyer, who was satisfied that their milk was being produced to the standard required. Like us, Adele and Steve have recently wormed their 18-month-old heifers to rid them of any intestinal parasites they may have picked up during their first grazing season and especially to rid them of any adult liver fluke.

By Denise Plummer