WHAT a miserable week! The days have been predominately dull, cloudy and damp, with prolonged periods of heavy rain amounting to 43mm (almost two inches) over the week. The temperature has been up and down, falling in and out of double figures. Not long now until the shortest day, so hopefully the days will begin to brighten up soon.

I have had a great time recently making mincemeat, Christmas cakes, puddings and using our Bramley Apples in pickles and chutneys. I love spending days in the kitchen, as food is something I have always enjoyed, so now I just have to ice and decorate the Christmas cakes I make for younger members of our family.

It has been good thing that getting ready the seasonal festivities has taken my mind off the sale of our dairy herd. A local farmer has bought 25 cows, which were taken to their new home early in the week and should now be well settled into their new surroundings. Instead of their milk going into Cadbury's chocolate, it will now be going to Waitrose stores for sale as liquid milk.

However, at the moment work on the farm carries on as usual. The recent wet weather has now forced us to bring all our cattle into winter housing. The milking cows have all been in for a while now, but our yearlings were still outside. Once the 25 cows had left the farm, space was freed up in part of the cubicle barn adjacent to the dairy, so the Freisian/Holstein heifers have been moved there from their field. They soon settled in and we find they usually take to the new sleeping arrangements straight away. A barn had to be prepared to house our 50 Aberdeen Angus x yearlings, as some of Kevin's sheep are occupying a barn normally used. This meant that we had to remove the cubicles from another barn before the remaining 50 cattle could be brought in. It was a case of 'many hands make light work' as Ian, Harry, Kevin and Richard soon got the barn ready, bedded up with plenty of fresh straw and the remaining animals brought in from the field. Now all the cattle are happily under cover and the wet fields will not be damaged by the trampling of hooves.

Kevin has been busy with his sheep moving his ewe lambs to fresh pasture. He has picked up some sheep fencing from recently grazed fields and moved another group of 80 pregnant ewes onto Manor Farm. An on-going job is the grading of wethers, to be sold as finished lambs into the meat market. Some are in a barn being fed on haylage and a food supplement to balance their diet, others are grazing a field of forage rape, with hay made available. Kevin is now sorting through them every week, identifying those ready to go and marking them for easy identification. He does this as he has to let his agent know how many lambs he is able to supply, so that a buyer can be found and the transport arranged to collect them a few days later.

During the last week I attended a South West Region NFU Dairy Board meeting. This one was held at Bristol Veterinary School where we were given a guided tour of the dairy unit followed by presentations from a number of researchers doing work connected with antibiotic resistance and animal welfare. We were told that farmers have reduced antibiotic use by 40 per cent over the last five years. In 2016 The University of Bristol joined the CIEL (The Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock) consortium. At the Langford campus there are facilities and expertise to carry out laboratory, welfare and behaviour research for all livestock. This consortium works with 12 leading research institutions to support, promote and deliver industry-led livestock research.