THE past week has once again given us a real mixture of weather. There has been sunshine, bursts of light rain, chilly breezes and not forgetting a frost mid-week, also the arrival of temperatures into double figures again at the end of the week. Rainfall did amount to 14 mm, which has managed to keep the ground wet and muddy and once again the line being drawn on my barograph is falling, not great news.

Apart from the routine twice daily feeding and checking of our cattle Ian has been dismantling the backing gate, a remnant of our milking days. The backing gate is a tubular barrier that was used to keep the cows moving forward in the collecting yard at milking times. Every now and again the person milking would electronically move the gate forward a little to keep the cows closer to the milking area. Now we are no longer milking the gate is not required, so removing it will enable the collecting yard to more easily be used as a loose bedded yard. Unfortunately dismantling the gate has been a slow process, but Ian said the effort will have been worthwhile once it is gone. Thinking about the lack of dairy cows on the farm has made me feel a little sad, as milking cows has always been such a feature in my life. Time however passes quickly and I cannot believe it is now almost a year since the dairy herd was sold.

Ian has also mucked out our group of weaned Angus calves. They were temporarily shut out of their bedded area to enable Ian to remove all the manure before he then made the calves a lovely new thick bed of fresh straw. When I saw them later in the day they all looked very happy, tucking into a tasty meal of grass silage.

Our agronomist called one day during the week and after walking around all the autumn planted fields told us that all the crops we had managed to plant looked well , with no sign of disease or slugs. Maybe the slugs are drowning?

Recently the elite ram lambs (born early this year) were moved to a fresh paddock. This was a job made easier by the collies, mum Smudge, a blue merle, helped by two of her puppies born last spring. Smudge had six puppies, four of which have gone to new homes and two kept to eventually replace two aging dogs taking life a little easier. The puppies, Winston and Star, began their basic training some months ago learning how to follow basic commands such as "sit" and "down", also how to walk quietly on a lead . Then while on a lead they were introduced to a small flock of sheep, learning to walk quietly around them . After repeating their basic training Melissa has been teaching them the commands needed when herding a flock of sheep.

"Come by" means go to the left; "away" means go to the right and "lie down", well that's quite obvious. When first off the lead a small group of 10-15 sheep were used and the young collies trained to steadily drive them forward. Whilst on exercise, without using the sheep, Melissa teaches the young collies to lie down and stay while she walks away before calling them to heel and making them sit. She then repeats the exercise several times, rewarding them at the end with plenty of praise using the word "good". She then gives them a little cuddle, telling them "that will do", before letting them relax after each session. It is important for the young collies to learn to understand when their job is complete.

Early in the week Chippenham Young Farmers took part in a 2.5 mile on farm night hike, with a number of games held at the end. Several YFC clubs took part and after competitions involving ball games, chasing, skittles and matching leaves to trees Chippenham were declared the overall winners.