Helen works part-time at BIP as an agricultural advisor, helping farmers on Countryside Stewardship, Reducing BPS Payments, Sustainable Farming Incentive and other agricultural grants. She spends the rest of her time working on her family’s beef, sheep and arable farm. She's generously found the time in her busy schedule to give us a little insight into a typical day on her Devon farm.
A typical day on the farm
Rise and shine on the farm. The stomach has been lined with a decent breakfast, and it’s time to get dressed up and the wellies on. I am greeted by our overly excited Collies and Spaniel at the back door, who give me the best welcome to every new day on the farm.
The first job of the day is feeding the in-lamb ewes. Lambing is just around the corner, so they are in during the night, feeding on silage, and out during the day on fodder turnips. Before they are let out in the field, we give them some extra concentrates to ensure they have all the nutrients they need to produce a healthy lamb and lots of nice colostrum.
Next up, the cattle are fed. We purchased young calves (around 2 weeks old) last spring, so at present, all our cattle are either 10 months old or 22 months old. All the cattle are given fresh straw for bedding, and some rolled grain and silage are available to them all day and night.
We are a mixed farm of livestock and arable, including some potatoes. Today, we have an order of washed potatoes which are being collected by a local food delivery service. The potatoes are scooped into a hopper. A conveyor brings the potatoes onto the grader, where they are inspected to ensure they are fit for sale. They are then automatically bagged in 25kg bags and then manually stacked on a pallet ready for collection.
It's time for a quick cup of coffee and a snack to keep the stomach satisfied until 1pm then back on the farm. Time to jump in the truck to do the stock checks of the remaining sheep. We still have around 200 hogs on the farm, which were born in March last year that are not yet ready to go to market. These are checked along with all the other breeding ewes to ensure everyone is healthy. The in-lamb ewes are prone to getting stuck on their back or suffering from calcium deficiency, so they are currently checked twice a day. Some of the ewes are grazing the oats which were planted in the autumn. This helps to control its growth while improving the health of the plant. It also prevents the need for additional sprays in the spring, which saves us money and helps the environment.
Prior to lambing, all our ewes are docked and vaccinated. Docking is removing the wool surrounding the sheep’s rear to make our lives easier during lambing. We also vaccinate the ewes to prevent clostridial diseases and pasteurellosis. This job takes time as we also check and treat any sheep who are limping, and then the sheep are divided into groups. We separate the ewes out depending on their due dates and how many lambs they are carrying so that they can be fed and managed accordingly.
Lunchtime, and I’m in need of a sandwich and a hot drink. Maybe a banana, yoghurt, and cake as well. Farming is manual work and gives you a good appetite!
As spring approaches, the cattle are let back out in the fields for grazing. Before that happens, we ensure that all the fences are in a good condition around the farm. We hitch up the post basher and load up with fencing steaks to replace any rotten steak posts. This ensures the cattle and sheep remain in the field they are supposed to and makes sure we have no late-night calls due to escaped livestock.
We are back in the farmyard ready for the evening feeds. The in-lamb ewes are checked, and the cattle are given their feed before they settle in for the night.
Dinner time. After a day on the farm, a hearty meal is a necessity! Following dinner, there is usually a bit of paperwork to do while I nestle next to the fire. I am making the most of the early nights as in a week or two, lambing will be in full swing, and a good night’s sleep will be a distant memory.
Are you aware of the new funding opportunities available as part of the Agricultural Transition?
Our free information workshop, Farm Grants Update & Navigating the Agricultural Transition, provides more detailed information on the changes to the Basic Payment Scheme, environmental land management schemes, other available grants and how to get ongoing support. It’s also a chance to meet with other farmers or land managers in your local area and share questions or concerns in a supportive environment.
We are running several of these workshops a month across a range of south west locations until the end of March 2025. The workshops are free and available to any farmer or land manager currently in receipt of BPS payments in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Cornwall, or the Isles of Scilly.
We also offer commercial services to agricultural business. These include helping you prepare appraisals to support planning applications, basic payment scheme applications, and farming equipment and technology fund applications.
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