IT has been a very hot, dry week, with a daytime high of over 30C. Winds, often quite strong, have been coming from a northerly direction and the sky has been almost cloudless.

Our winter wheat and barley are beginning to show signs of stress. The ground has changed from a wet to dry, which is causing these ripening crops to have a white bleached look, rather than slowly maturing to a bright golden colour.

The grain in the ears would normally be plumping up, but not here on Manor Farm this year. The plants would like some rain, but it may not come soon enough. A few months ago it looked as if we were going to have a bumper harvest. It just shows the huge effect the weather can have on food production, but let's hope there is time for some improvement.

The grass has also stopped growing and our forage maize crop has patches of poor growth among taller plants where the soil is more fertile and has held a little more moisture. From a personal point of view, I quite like seeing more sunshine.

However, it's not all gloom and doom. We have managed to make some good hay from some second cut grass. The days are at their longest in late June, so perfect for hay-making, if the sun is shining.

The crop was cut early in the week, fluffed up and spread a few times before the dried grass was gathered into rows ready to bale. We decided it would be easier to make big square bales, so we used a contractor to bale the crop for us.

At the end of the week the younger calves, all Aberdeen Angus Xs were given their second oral vaccination to protect them against Lungworm. Lungworm is a roundworm with a life cycle of four weeks from ingestion to excretion.The larvae are eaten, then migrate out of the intestinal wall via the bloodstream to the lungs. Here they mature into adult worms in a few days, after which the adults move up the respiratory tract causing the infected bovine to cough and become very ill. Infected animals can shed thousands of worms every day. Once the calves have built up their immunity they can be turned out to graze.

While on the subject of calves, midweek a gate was not properly fastened, which allowed two groups of cattle to mix and escape into two fields nearby. After some time they were corralled so the two groups couldn't be separated. The calves were then returned to their barn and the in-calf heifers to their field.

Ian was, however, sure that one calf was missing, which could not be found by anyone, so all exits to the farm were securely fastened. The next morning it appeared, none the worse for its night under the stars.

On Stowell Farm it was time to shear all the ewes, as all the weaned lambs and the ewes had settled down since being separated. The two shearers and a packer came from Herefordshire and wanted to start shearing at 5am, to enable them to finish their day quite early, as it was rather warm.

The shearing took two days and was done in the shade of some large trees in Corsham Park. Fly, Wisper and Smudge, Kevin's three sheep dogs, also had to get up early to help gather the ewes into a paddock.

Then the ewes were brought in small groups from the paddock into a pen. From here they were driven through a race where the shearers were working. The aim of each shearer was to shear 100 sheep an hour, having a half hour break every two hours.

This was a comfortable rate and less stressful for the sheep, especially on a hot day. It also made life easier for the packer, whose job it is to roll the fleeces and put them into large wool sacks supplied by the Wool Marketing Board.

At the end of the first of two days shearing the packer was not feeling well, so it was Melissa who got up early with Kevin and the dogs the next day. The ewes are now back in their fields grazing, feeling much cooler, after each having 2.5 to 3 kilos of wool removed.