The past week began with some wild weather. The wind blew and the rain fell, amounting to 24 mm here on Manor Farm. Although it has been quite mild for most of the time, it has mostly been dull and damp, but with one lovely sunny day. On this day I walked through the farm into the wood which borders it on one side. It was uplifting, especially with the sun streaming through the trees, still partially clothed in their autumn colours.

During the week Ian has been tidying up a few hedges, after feeding, bedding up and checking all our Aberdeen Angus cattle. During the week Ian collected the remainder of the weaned calves, we had booked earlier in the year, from a nearby rearing unit. These calves are being kept in a separate pen until they have got used to their new surroundings and change of diet. It will also quarantine them before they are added to the rest of the young herd.

For some of the time Ian has been helping Kevin make preparations for housing the ewes, due to lamb in January. They have put up a temporary building, which resembles a polytunnel. This will give some additional space. We were all called to help move a group of rams, which are the sires of the lambs due to be born early next year, to fresh pasture. They are now in a field with the ram lambs and will be sorted soon into two groups; one selected as next season's breeding stock, the other will be rams that will be culled for a number of reasons, such as age or health. Other sheep work has been fencing fresh pasture and moving the flocks of ewes (each flock with a ram) due to begin lambing in late March.

Melissa told me the other day that although the rat population on the farm is under control (we have a specialist pest controller) , there are a great deal of mice about and it may be a good idea to get some cats. They know where they could get a pair, but cats and members of the cat family are definitive hosts of a single cell parasite which causes "toxoplasmosis". In a definitive host the parasite can sexually reproduce within the host's body. This means that if cats become infected from eating infected rodents or birds, for example, they are then able to spread parasite via their faeces. In sheep and humans it can cause abortion, still birth or foetuses with congenital infection. The parasite toxoplasma gondii is found throughout the world and can persist in the bodies of all warm blooded animals, including humans. Fortunately in most cases our immune system will prevent the parasite causing illness. It can affect its host via a wide range of routes. Sheep can ingest parasite eggs from their pasture, contaminated feed and water. However, Kevin is able to give his sheep some protection by vaccinating at appropriate times. Maybe the pair of regularly spotted kestrels will devour some of the many small rodents on the farm. I expect you may remember me telling you about Annabel's black pet lamb Blackberry. Well, she has grown into a very nice looking ewe lamb and has joined a very small flock of pet sheep with two friends, Raspberry and Strawberry. Blackberry is one of a set of triplets born last spring. She stayed with her mother for two weeks after she was born, but it is not a good idea to put triplets out in a field together with their mother, so one is usually reared on a bottle, as was Blackberry. One of her two friends is an orphan and the other a lamb that was brought back from the park, as its mother did not have enough milk. Melissa and the twins spent a week nursing it back to full health. So these three pets have been united with 11-year-old Paulini, her daughters nine-year-old Rosie and seven-year-old Buttercup and granddaughter five-year-old Daisy.

I know that there are farmers who like to know what we are doing here on Manor Farm and would just like to remind them of the danger involved when working with machines, animals and at height. Please keep safe!