THE past week has seen the temperature drop to 0C and only a damping of rain. However, much better than the weather we experienced during the few days we spent in Italy, whilst visiting an elderly aunt. The amount of rain that fell on and around Rome was unbelievable, with traffic and rail disruption.

Fortunately Chippenham Young Farmers' ploughing match took place on a sunny day on Chiverlins Farm, even though there was a chilly breeze. The event, which attracted 51 entries over the six classes, was enjoyed by competitors and spectators, with bacon butties, beef burgers, cakes and drinks available on site. I was given the task of preparing and serving judges' lunches. I made a large beef casserole with lots of dumplings served with jacket potatoes and vegetables, a warming meal on a cool day.

The six ploughing classes consisted of a class for vintage ploughs pre-1959 with a maximum of three furrows; classic conventional pre-1990 with a maximum of either two or five furrows; trailed vintage on wheels (not hydraulic) and two classes for reversible ploughs of four and up to seven furrows.

The judges were particularly looking to see the opening of the first furrow, which is when the plough cuts the first furrow across the field; burial of all the organic matter on the surface; the evenness and straightness of the furrows and the precision of the finish.

All ages from 14 years and upwards can take part, so granddaughter Natasha was one of this year's competitors, ploughing with a five-furrow reversible plough, under the watchful eye of Richard, her grandfather. Apparently all went reasonably well until the finish, which Richard described as "not so precise". There were three prizes for each class, a special prize for the best young farmer, the best hydraulic and an overall champion.

For part of the week Kevin and Richard spent time tidying up around a set of our older farm buildings that have not been used fully over the last few years. These are quite near to Kevin and Melissa's new home here on Manor Farm, where they will be lambing their 1,200 pedigree Lleyn ewes next spring. At least now we can see how much barn space will be available.

Another job done during the week was to move 150 of the wethers (castrated ram lambs) from grass into a barn. Here they are being fed haylage (plastic wrapped bales of grass which is drier than silage) and a 16 per cent lamb finisher concentrate, in the form of pellets. Kevin then hopes he will soon be able to select a batch that will make the grade for market.

By continuing to monitor the feed and condition of the wethers it should be possible that a group will make the grade for market every two weeks.

Also on Manor Farm more of our 27 dairy heifer calves have been weaned. From now on most of our dairy cows due to give birth will have Aberdeen Angus x calves. If we keep or sell these on to be reared will depend on the outcome of our next 60-day TB test, which is due next week.

We kept all our Angus x calves from the 2017/ 18 season, so we already have extra livestock on the farm. We were hoping to sell our dairy herd last spring but one cow failed our annual test, meaning that in order to trade normally we would need two clear 60 tests. The following test showed one failure, then clear on the next one, so we are becoming very anxious about the test result next week.

At the end of the week, whilst Ian was checking the cows before he went to bed, he found that a freshly calved heifer in a calving pen had become cast, which meant that she had got herself into a position from which she was unable to stand. Kevin was called to assist and the heifer was soon back on her feet.