College Calendar: Lizzie sees sheep herd get scanned

Lizzie Jennings, 20, has just begun the second year of a two-year foundation degree course in Agriculture at Bishop Burton College in Yorksire.

To kick off the festive season, my seven ewes have been scanned this week. I’ve got two singles, four twins and one triplet and all of them pregnant in the first cycle. That’s my girls!

I’ve been on a high ever since. Any number of things could go wrong between now and lambing, but for now there is the heartwarming prospect of my flock increasing from seven to 20 come February with a lambing percentage of 1.86.

John Barnes from Green Hammerton scanned the sheep. He scans the college farm flock, so I’m likely to see him again in a month or so. The weather and work hours don’t seem to matter, he still manages to keep his sense of humour. He couldn’t resist saying things like: “There’s a dead one in here” or “This one’s barren” just to wind me up.

You have to admire a person who can look at images of moving, black-and-white blobs and work out how many lambs there are, how old they are and whether they’re dead or alive. To the bystander, there’s something slightly druidical or fortune-telling about it all.

By the end of the evening all but two of my sheep were accounted for. The yellow markings that make them stand out a mile off in the daylight were too difficult to pick out in the artificial light needed from about 4.30 pm. The farmer allowing me to run my sheep with his flock checked them the following morning and reported the last results before I was on my way to college.

This week at Bishop Burton has revolved around three things. A knapsack pesticide application test (PA6), the completion of a statistics test paper and work for a project on Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs). The project is sponsored and judged by the Environment Agency and, in our teams, we have to survey farms for NVZ compliance and try to discuss and advise options. With a first prize of £500 available, the heat is on.

Next week means the start of tractor-mounted spraying training (PA2) for some of us and the submission of our proposals for this year’s major project. I’m doing a study of successful new entrants to the agricultural industry within the last 10 years and need to track down some relevant case studies. How they managed to break into the industry might help with deciding what route I’m going to take.

At my work placement, the finishing bull beef are doing well on barley/concentrate mix and fodder beet. The land is unaccustomed to this level of rainfall and on Monday we had high winds, sleet and hail to contend with but I’m lucky to have a boss who believes in a good English breakfast.

They’ve been a hectic but rewarding 12 months that have gone too fast. Here’s hoping that the lamb trade is good in 2010.