IT'S been a generally brighter week than the one before, but still rather chilly. There was a day mid-week which was particularly awful, dull, damp and a biting wind. It was the only day with rainfall, which only amounted to 6mm here on Manor Farm. The last few days were much sunnier, but the cold breeze kept blowing.

Kevin managed to plant his spring barley and peas. He did this by direct drilling the seeds into the soil of the stubble fields from last autumn 's harvest, a method that prevents moisture escaping and uses less processes before planting. Kevin uses minimum tillage to save time and diesel, finding in past years that this process on his land works well. If necessary he will do some ploughing and cultivating prior to planting and use a good crop rotation to mitigate some of the negative aspects of minimum tillage.

Ian and Richard have been finishing the fencing in a field where our autumn born calves will be turned out for the first time, as soon as the weather warms up a little .

This week our cattle had a routine TB test done by a vet. This test was scheduled for 6 months from our last clear test, which was at the beginning of November last year. There were 40 18-month-old Angus X beef cattle, 34 dairy Friesian/Holstein heifer calves, born last year and our Aberdeen Angus bull to test, a much reduced number of cattle since the sale of our dairy herd last December. The test day was on the Tuesday, followed by the results being recorded on the Thursday.

The TB skin test is a definitive indicator of infection caused by the bacterium that causes TB in cattle, Mycobacterium bovis.The skin test is comparative, as the animal's immune response to injections of both bovine and avian TB is measured and compared. The skin test relies on looking for the immune response of the animal, when simultaneously injected with two types of Tuberculin injected into the skin of the neck. The test can distinguish between animals infected with Mycobacterium bovis and animals previously exposed or infected with other types of Mycobacteria in the environment.

The test is done by clipping the hair from two small areas on the neck of each animal, then measuring the thickness of the skin at each site using calipers. Following this the upper site is injected with the avian strain of the bacteria, the lower site with the bovine strain. 72 hours later the calipers are used to measure any lumps that may have developed. Cattle infected with Bovine TB tend to show a greater reaction to bovine than Avian TB. Another essential part of the test is to accurately record the number of each bovine tested by checking its ear-tag and noting its skin test thicknesses. Each animal has the following information displayed on its ear-tags (one on each ear) ; the country of birth, the herd number and its own personal identification number. All cattle in the UK are issued with passports at birth and their births, movements and deaths recorded on a central database. Passports have to accompany cattle wherever they go. This ensures that every animal is fully traceable at all times.

I am pleased to say that our test went very smoothly, probably helped by the fact that these cattle have had so many tests following our breakdown last year that testing has almost become routine. I am also pleased to tell you that our test was clear.

Kevin's ewes have now finished lambing and all the ewes and lambs are out in fields. Dismantling, cleaning and storing all the hurdles used to make temporary pens is well underway, as is cleaning out all the barns previously occupied by the ewes. The pens of bottle-fed lambs are doing well with some of the older ones now only receiving milk twice a day as they are eating sufficient solid food.