ALTHOUGH there have been periods of sunshine over Manor Farm, it has generally been a rather dull, damp and cloudy week, with 6mm of rainfall. The temperatures, however, have fallen to minus figures, then recovered to give a much less cold feel to the air at the end of the week.

My week began with a Pony Club unmounted badge rally. To help members understand more about equestrianism and the countryside the children (whose ages ranged from from upwards) are able to gain knowledge at these PC Achievement Badge rallies. On this occasion Melissa, who is also a coach, and I held a rally where two badges could be achieved. We had decided to do birds and equine behaviour. A few examples of the many badges that can be worked for are feeding your pony, points of a pony, poisonous plants, road rider, building show jumps, equipment safety, plaiting, farming,wildlife and even mucking out.

This shows the diverse range of badges on offer and there are many more. As you can see, some badges can be obtained without ponies.

We try to make badge rallies fun by involving something practical such as identifying things, drawing, colouring or even practical demonstrations. We decided to do birds as the Big Garden Bird Watch will be happening over the weekend and the Farmland Bird Watch will be taking place in February.

Equine behaviour is also important as one is able to learn a great deal about a pony or horse by watching their behaviour. For example, if they lay their ears flat against the back of their head retreat quickly as it is a sign of anger!

Now to get back to farming activities during the week. It was decided there was still one field on Manor Farm that would benefit from being grazed by sheep. It was quickly surrounded with sheep fencing and the ewe lambs (female lambs born last spring) moved into it. Hopefully they will enjoy eating the grass and the field will produce a good crop when the growing season begins.

During the week three groups of sheep have been sold; some lightweight finished wethers; some heavier finished wethers and most of the cull ewes (ewes culled are those found not to be pregnant at scanning). This means there are now only a few of last year's wethers and cull ewes left to sell. These will hopefully be leaving the farm before lambing begins.

The pregnant ewes, now all housed in barns on the farm, have just been vaccinated. This pre-lambing vaccination is the only way to provide newborn lambs with passive protection against pasteurella and clostridial diseases. It must be given no later than four to six weeks prior to lambing or there will not be enough time to get antibodies into the colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mammary glands of mammals immediately after birth. It is essential for the lambs to receive adequate colostrum within the first two hours of birth as the ability of antibodies in colostrum to transfer to the lambs decreases dramatically after 12 hours and stops after 24 hours. Apart from carrying antibodies colostrum is very high in nutrients and promotes strong, healthy growth.

In order to vaccinate the ewes each of the three groups was gathered into a yard from where the sheep could be guided through a narrow race into a section where each one could be held in turn to be vaccinated. From here the group was temporarily held in another yard, before being allowed back into the barns. This enabled all the manure to be removed from the barns, using a teleporter, to a nearby heap to be stored. Each barn was then bedded up with fresh straw, after which the ewes were allowed back into their accommodation looking none the worse following the brief interruption to their normal routine.