COMPARED to the previous week, the weather has been very calm. Apart from Saturday, last weekend, which arrived with a gale force wind and storms, the week has been overcast, but quite mild with temperatures getting into double figures, showing very little fluctuation for most of the time.

It has been ideal weather for turning ewes and lambs out in the fields and the ground has continued to become drier. Kevin has just told me that there are only 135 ewes left to give birth, so life is starting to become a little less hectic. Recently Annabelle, the ewe with a black and white face, gave birth to twins, a girl and a boy. The ram lamb has been castrated, as have all the ram lambs born to ewes in the main flock. They will be grown on to be sold for meat, but the ewe lambs will be reared as replacements going into the main flock at two years old, when they will give birth to their first lambs. The ram lambs born to ewes in the elite flock of 100 sheep will be left entire, as they will be graded later on. The ewe lambs born will replace the old elite ewes.

At Roves Farm Visitor Centre lambing is also in full swing, with members of the public and school groups watching them give birth. For the classes of school children I was guiding around the farm during the week, the highlights were being able to get close to farm animals, bottle feeding a small group of kids, hand-feeding the adult goats with food pellets and seeing the outdoor Gloucester Old Spot pigs enjoying the mud. Hopefully the children will have learned more about where their food comes from.

Back on Manor Farm the flock of shearling ewe lambs (female lambs a year old) have been given their annual booster to protect them against a variety of clostridial diseases. After being vaccinated, checked over and any lame ones treated, the shearlings were taken from their recent home in the collecting area used originally for the milking cows and turned out in a field of grass.

During the week Ian has been helping Kevin and Melissa with lambing, whilst Richard mucked out our Friesian/Holstein heifers born last autumn and bedded them up with plenty of fresh straw. We have now sold all our surplus large bales of barley and wheat straw from last year's harvest, although there are still a few to be collected. Richard has also done some more muck spreading, on a field to be planted with maize.

Whilst walking across a grass field on Manor Farm, I noticed that there was a large area where the grass was being smothered by a thick mat of chickweed and buttercups. During the last few weeks grass has grown slowly, but nutrient-loving weeds, such as chickweed, have grown on during the winter. This affected part of the field will have to be spayed with a herbicide.

Mid-week I attended the Annual Farming Forum of The Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). This was held at The Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. One of the presentations was about Ash Dieback. We were told that Ash Dieback is caused by a wind dispersed fungus, with the grand name of Hymenoscyhus Fraxineus.

Common ash is usually coppiced, but has a lifespan of 150 to 200 years. Ash trees produce light shade under their canopies, enabling other plants to grow beneath them. The bark is smooth and grey when young, but on mature trees it has deep fissures. It has prominent black buds, which look like the 'ace of spades' compound leaves and fruiting bodies that hang down like bunches of keys. The disease Ash Dieback primarily arrived on imported trees and being a fungus moist conditions favour its establishment. The disease causes the leaves to wilt and die firstly on the top edges of the tree and progresses along limbs and stems, eventually killing it. For now the only way to reduce the spread of Ash Dieback is good woodland management.