ONCE again the line drawn on our barograph over the last week has looked like the path of a roller coaster. It is not therefore surprising that the weather has once again been quite varied. There were wet, miserable cold days, some with plenty of sunshine, but often broken up with wintry showers or storms carried through by strong winds.

Here on Manor Farm, rainfall amounted to 30mm, with 16 mm falling over a 24-hour period, just to make the ground feel rather wet once again.

Early one morning, Kevin and Melissa arrived with their stock trailer, to collect 80 previously selected wethers (castrated ram lambs) from the flock residing on Manor Farm. Kevin had just had word that a lorry would be at Stowell Farm to pick them up later in the day.

First of all the three sheep dogs Fly, Smudge and Wisper, gathered the flock, which was spread out over the entire field. However, controlling the dogs was quite difficult. The roar from the motorway was rather loud, as on this occasion the wind was blowing towards us, so giving them commands once they had begun the outrun was impossible.

Fortunately the dogs seemed to know what they were doing and it was not long before the sheep were penned, enabling the marked ones to be separated from the rest of the flock.

Back on Stowell Farm, the small flock of ewes and their lambs born as a result of artificial insemination have been been put out into grass field next to the farm buildings. The lambs were dressed in biodegradable jackets, which would help to protect them from any cold, wet weather. Unfortunately, a number of artificially inseminated ewes did not become pregnant, so a proven Stowell Farm ram was put with these ewes to act as a sweeper. These ewes will now lamb with the main flock from the beginning of March.

In the main flock of about 1,400 ewes, safely housed in barns prior to lambing, is a rather oddly coloured ewe, as half her face is black. She was born three years ago, when a picture of her was shown being held by Matt, who helps during lambing every year. Being different and easy to spot, she was called Annabelle and is due to give birth for the second time. During scanning she was found to be carrying triplets, so hopefully she will give birth to three healthy lambs without any problems.

The majority of the work on Manor Farm is still centred around cattle work. The milking has to be done twice every day, also there is plenty of mucking out, bedding up and feeding to do.

During the week the area of the barn used for freshly calved, lame or unwell cows was mucked out to the floor and the solid manure from this area was taken to add to manure heaps in fields on the farm due to be planted with maize later in the year.

Ian recently did the milk recording, which is when a sample of milk is collected from each cow in a sampling device during milking. The individual milk samples were then sent to an independent laboratory for analysis. David, our nutritionist, called in during the week. He weighed some of the six-month-old calves to check their growth rates, which were found to be good.

He also looked at the cows to check their body condition and examined the milk recording results. David decided the ration was fine since rebalancing carbohydrate, protein and fat levels on his previous visit, as our bulk butterfat percentage had fallen to below its normal level of about four per cent.

On Shrove Tuesday, Richard, grandson Dominic and I joined Melissa and family for a pancake lunch. We enjoyed some very tasty savoury and sweet pancakes. So many great eats can be made with a mixture of eggs, flour and milk.

By Denise Plummer