I HAVE just returned from a walk around part of Manor Farm, including taking a look at our Angus and Red Devon cattle. The animals looked very happy, the younger Angus calves in their loose straw bedded yard and opposite the Red Devons in the cubicle bedded yard. Some of them were munching on some grass silage whilst others, already full up, were lying down chewing their cud. Don't fancy being a ruminant myself! Eating and digesting grass is quite a laborious process, which utilises four distinct stomach chambers. When ruminants, such as cattle, sheep and goats take in fresh food, primarily forage, they barely chew it. They do not have any teeth at the front of their upper jaws, all their grinding teeth are on both jaws further back in their mouths. The partly chewed food passes into the largest stomach chamber, which is called the rumen, where it mixes with digestive juices and microbes . From here it is regurgitated in mouthfuls and properly chewed before passing on into the next chamber on its journey through the cow's body.

The walk was enjoyable, as the sun was shining, but the wind was rather chilly and there was an abundance of very large puddles. I saw very little wildlife just a few crows and finches, but I did see a large flock of starlings. The bare branches made the trees look lifeless and the only flowers I saw were a few red dead nettles.

At about 10 o'clock the other night Kevin received a phone call. It was from another farmer, who told Kevin that he was worried about the small flock of sheep grazing one of his fields next to a section of the River Avon. He said he thought the river was getting dangerously high and it might be a good idea to move them to higher ground. So Kevin, his parents, Ian, collie Smudge and Hunterway Fly were soon gathering the flock, not so easy in the dark, but soon the sheep were safe from any rising water.

Kevin and Francis have selected another 145 finished wethers to be collected once transport has been arranged. During the week the main flock of ewes were gathered from the park and brought into the prepared barns where they can be fed some grass silage. Grass at this time of year has very little nutritive value and is not adequate for pregnant ewes. Now only the ewe lambs (female lambs born last spring) are at pasture. These will not give birth to their first lambs until they are two years old.

I recently attended the Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership (MDNEP ) AGM This is a group of farmers and friends who work together to make A Space for Nature. Since the three-year funded pilot project ended in 2015 the farmers have been determined that they are going to continue with their own project, under the enthusiastic leadership of Dr Gemma Batten. At the AGM the attendees were given a talk by Prof Richard Pywell, who is doing research into conserving and restoring biodiversity on farms. He is involved in a five-year government funded research programme, which is trying to find the best way to achieve sustainable agricultural systems by studying agro and eco systems. It is very much a research programme, which is working closely with the farming industry to co-design practical solutions and so have more influence on DEFRA. One part of this is looking at precision detail on crop yields, using over 3,000 fields and analysing patterns over crop rotations, to find reasons for the variation in yields across a field. Soil health and condition plays a part in this. A 1/4 million hectares of land are being sampled for carbon and nutrients each year, also greenhouse gases. The results will hopefully show which management regimes work on different soil types.

When you read this my work as Santa's elf will be over for another year. Hope you are all enjoying the festive season.