ALTHOUGH the week began with plenty of sunshine, chilly breezes form the east and sub- zero temperatures gave way to some particularly severe weather.

The line on our barograph, having been showing high air pressure, suddenly started to fall. This was accompanied by a further fall in the already sub-zero temperature as the wind strengthened and the snow began to fall. These conditions always make life on the farm very difficult and these were the worst we have experienced for a number of years.

Ruth, who milks our cows, had a week's holiday, so everyone on Manor Farm was very busy doing extra work, getting up early and not finishing in the evening until after dark. Ian has spent the week milking, with morning milking starting at 5am, fetching Nathan before he started, as we have a four-wheel drive vehicle for use around the farm. Nevertheless, we experienced a number of difficulties caused by the very strong cold wind finding its way into every nook and cranny within our barns.

Even though we had packed manure and other insulating materials around water tanks, some froze. This makes life difficult as cattle drink a great deal of water. Lactating cows produce milk which is 87 per cent water, so they require at least 60 litres water each day, even needing as much as 100 litres at peak lactation. It was, however, the barn housing our 18-month-old heifers that proved to be the biggest problem, as the supply froze and we were not able to get it running again. This being so, the only solution was to move the heifers to an adjacent barn, which is being used as our pre-natal area. Fortunately, we do not have too many heavily pregnant cows at the moment, so the barn was divided up to make room for the heifers.

As the weather turned colder, we noticed that our recently born Aberdeen Angus x calves were looking cold. I suggested some calf jackets would provide a simple solution, otherwise we would have to use some heat lamps.

Richard managed to purchase half a dozen, five of which were soon fitted to the calves needing them. At least now they now look cosy and warm. I have ordered a few more online, which I am told will be arriving a day later than expected, due to the weather.

The severe weather also caused problems with milk collection and many farmers were forced to throw away large quantities of milk. Fortunately, our tanker did not have a problem reaching us. Milk is collected every day or every other day, but even with emergency storage space, the tanks soon fill up.

Manor Farm is now a sheep-free zone, as early in the week Kevin and Melissa collected the remaining wethers (castrated ram lambs), taking them back to Stowell Farm ready for sale.

On hearing the weather forecast Kevin decided it would be a good idea to bring his small flock of recently turned out ewes and lambs back into an empty barn, even though the lambs had been turned out wearing bio-degradable jackets. Once conditions improve, they will be put back out.

To finish on a lighter note, Richard and I recently attended the fifth annual Wiltshire RABI Farmhouse Breakfast held on Wickworth Farm, Lea, the home of Melanie and Jeremy Newman.

The 80 attendees spent an enjoyable morning with friends and acquaintances, whilst tucking into a delicious farmhouse breakfast, consisting of bacon, sausages, tomato, beans, potato rosti, eggs, toast and all the trimmings.

The event was generously supported by the hosts, caterers, food suppliers and Barclays Agriculture, raising a record £2,042. This money will be used to provide regular support to British farming families in need of help, as it has done for the last 158 years.