THE hot dry weather continues, with no forecast of any change for some time to come, a little relief from the intense heat periodically brought about by passing clouds.

The cattle seem happy grazing on what can only be described as “standing hay”, but they are being fed additional rations made up to suit each group’s requirements.

The worst thing at the moment has to be an abundance of annoying flies, many species of which can inflict painful and irritating bites or stings. Often the cows gather, forming a tight circle. They do this to make best use of their tails so that by standing in the right place most of the cows will get additional fly-swatting provided by a neighbour.

During the week we had to move the group of dry cows and in-calf heifers to a fresh field, where there was a little something for them to nibble. We had to move them quite a distance along a minor road passing under the M4, so we had to call on every available family member to help with the move.

It was not long before the heifers and cows were back at some farm buildings where they were put through a race in order for our vet to do some pregnancy diagnoses on three or four of the heifers we thought may not be in-calf, before moving them into the fresh field. Fortunately all the heifers were pregnant, although one would not have her calf until next year.

There were also two free martins in the group. We knew these two animals were not pregnant as they were the females from two sets of mixed twins. We know that when a bovine gives birth to twins made up of a bull and a heifer calf, the heifer is usually sterile. This is because when in the cow’s uterus the male and female share placental membranes allowing a transfer of hormones to occur. This usually interrupts the development of female reproductive organs, so that when the calves are born the female externally looks fine, but internally she may have no reproductive organs, rendering her sterile.

Early during the week Harry, one of our near farming neighbours, harvested the oilseed rape grown on our farm. The crop looked well prior to harvest, but the yield was not great. We have some oilseed rape grown on our arable ground to act as a break crop in crop rotation. The rape straw has been baled and taken back to Harry’s farm for use as bedding in the winter.

Having finished harvesting our winter barley, Richard was able to move straight into one of our fields of winter wheat. It had looked as if it may be ripe, but in fact winter wheat harvest does not normally start until mid-August.

Richard, Ian and Kevin had picked some ears, rubbing the grain into their hands, all deciding that the grains were very hard and it would be a good idea to check the moisture. The moisture was below the required 15 per cent, so the combine was set to work. The combine has been able to work its way continually from one field to the next, with the moisture usually between 13 and 15 per cent. The bushel weight was surprisingly over the standard for all the loads, which were taken to a local storage facility.

By the end of the week we had gathered 60 acres of grain. The yield has not been as good as last year, but the weather since planting has not been helpful, very wet and cold, followed by hot and very dry.

The yield of straw has been surprisingly good, despite its rather bleached appearance, but with expected low yields this season straw prices have risen sharply.

Student Harry has been spreading slurry onto our stubble fields and begun cultivating to encourage weeds seeds to germinate, ie if and when we get some rain!

As the countryside continues to turn from green to brown there seems to be an abundance of insect life enjoying the hot, sunny weather, including butterflies, dragonflies, bees and hoverflies, also some less favoured species such as house flies and wasps.

Hedgerows are also becoming decked with a variety of berries, so it looks as if blackberry and apple pie will be on the menu.