I KNOW farmers are always checking weather forecasts, but the weather really does have a profound influence on everything we do. The snow that fell the week before amounted to 8mm water equivalent, but since the temperature rose a further 35mm of rain has fallen. The predominately dull, cloudy, damp week has also been rather windy at times. The line being drawn on our barograph has continued to rise and fall quite dramatically, indicating an unsettled period.

The abundant rainfall has made the ground rather soggy, which meant that the ewe lambs grazing some of our grass had to be moved before to much damage was done to a new ley, which was a section of pasture they had access to. The 600 ewe lambs were gathered with the help of four sheepdogs. What a wonderful sight to watch obedient collies making the task look so easy. The dogs worked really well and soon had the sheep gathered by the gateway, ready to be driven along a lane to the farm buildings, where they were sorted into two groups. The larger group were taken in trailers to a collecting yard, in one of our barns, where our cows would wait before being milked. As this area is no longer being used for cows, it was bedded up for the sheep. The smaller group of ewe lambs have been temporarily housed in another barn, as they have been sold. All the ewe lambs are being fed haylage, made last year from partially dried grass which was baled into large squares and wrapped in plastic to keep the air out, so preventing spoilage.

The pregnant ewes are now being fed a different mix of food as the maize silage has been used. To balance the diet chopped barley straw is being added to grass silage, plus vitamins and minerals for the ewes expecting single lambs. Ewes expecting twins or triplets are having extra nutrients added to their diet in the form of a balanced concentrate. Straw is a good addition to the diet of heavily pregnant ewes, helping appetite and rumen function, as appetite can be depressed at this time. The rumen is the first of four stomach compartments in ruminant animals where microbial fermentation of ingested feed takes place. The bacteria and other micro-organisms breakdown feedstuffs which the ruminant animal cannot do alone. In the process of ruminant digestion boluses of partly digested feed are regurgitated from the rumen to be chewed for a second time. This process is called 'chewing the cud'.

During the week Kevin's vet called to take blood samples from some of the ewes. Ten ewes carrying twins and ten carrying triplets were randomly selected from the flock for testing. This metabolic profiling will help determine if the ration being supplied in late pregnancy is providing the right balance of nutrients. Getting the balance right will significantly improve the health of both ewes and lambs in the early days following lambing. Of particular importance are protein levels and that of some minerals, especially magnesium and calcium.

Also during the week Ian and Richard weighed our Aberdeen Angus beef animals. These animals range in age from about 10 to 16 months and weighing them gave an indication of their growth, as outlets for these animals are quite specific about their weight and body condition at finishing. Both Ian and Richard were pleased with the weights, so have not had to alter the ration. At the moment the Anguses are being fed grass silage, a concentrate supplement, also some vitamins and minerals.