A PLEASANT week of spring weather has passed. Temperatures only feeling cooler in the periodic chilly breezes. We did have some much-needed rain mid-week, but this only amounted to a mere 9.5mm. At least this provided our thirsty crops with a little water. Hopefully we will soon get some more.

Melissa and I recently assessed some of our Beaufort Pony Club members on their C Test knowledge. When children join the pony club they embark on their journey to become competent riders with a good understanding of how to look after their ponies. As the children gain more knowledge, they can obtain levels of certification starting with E Level and working up through the levels to A test for the most senior members.

We also ran a Road Rider assessment beforehand, which had to be completed and achieved before the C Test could be taken. The Road Rider is an achievement badge taken to make sure all candidates at C level and above are aware of how to keep as safe as possible if they have to use a road with their ponies. For example, by wearing hi-viz clothing and knowing relevant parts of the Highway Code, also knowing it is better to use bridleways or byways if possible.

On Chiverlins Farm Kevin, with help from Ian, has managed to cut and ensile the silage grass for his sheep next winter. The weather stayed fine and the job was completed quickly, which helps to produce good quality silage. Kevin also decided that this year there was no need to use an additive.

If conditions at silage making time are not ideal, eg. the grass has a high moisture content and or there has been little sunshine, which means the sugars will be low, it sometimes helps to make sure the right type of fermentation occurs by using an inoculant. This will consist of strains of lactobacilli.

These are bacteria which break down the sugars, present in the grass, into lactic acid. These bacteria occur naturally in the grass, but boosting the numbers when conditions are less favourable will help the process.

Another very important part of silage making is to compress and seal the crop as quickly as possible to exclude air, as lactobacilli require anaerobic conditions. Once the acidity of the fermenting grass is lowered to pH 4.2 or less fermentation will stop, so you effectively pickling the crop to preserve it. Once the grass was safely sealed in the clamp Kevin spread some nitrogen fertiliser on the cut fields.

Hopefully the forecast rain will arrive to take the nitrogen into the soil where it will supply valuable nutrients.

Kevin has also sprayed his winter barley with its last application of fungicide. Fungicides are sprayed onto our cereal crops, often at specific stages of growth. One is usually when the crop is about knee high, another when the flag leaf emerges and finally an ear or awn wash.

To explain, the flag leaf is the last leaf to appear before the flower head, which in a cereal crop is the grain carrying part of the plant (the seeds ). Good disease-free leaf area is vital for grain production and being the last leaf means the flag leaf is going to get maximum sunlight for photosynthesis.

The ear wash is applying fungicide once the ear has emerged (the head of grain) . In barley it is called an awn wash, as protruding from each grain in the ear is a long spike called an awn.

Ian has been helping Kevin with sheep work. The yearling ewes (shearlings) and the ewes that gave birth to their lambs in January have been treated with an insecticide to give them protection against flystrike.

Particularly in warm, humid conditions blow flies will lay their eggs in damp patches of wool and the hatching maggots will burrow into the sheep's flesh. So prevention is the best way forward.

The later born lambs, out grazing with their mothers have been given their second vaccination to protect them against a number of clostridial diseases present in the environment. They were also given a wormer.

I recently attended a Bath & West Horse Committee meeting in readiness for the horse and pony classes due to be held at the Main Show from Thursday 2nd to Saturday 4th June. After problems we all had with Covid issues, this show promises to provide lots of entertainment for all ages.