College Calendar: Lizzie sells some lambs

I came to a decision about the fates of my eleven lambs…they’re all being sold. As nice as it would be to keep some stock from my first flock, the figures didn’t add up so I decided against being sentimental. Instead, I’m going to put any profit into buying some good mule breeding stock when I can.

Malton Livestock Market has done me proud with up to £2.06/kg for the first seven lambs. I used to think it would be hard to see your own lambs sold for “Destination Abattoir”, but in fact it’s very exciting. The enjoyment other people shared in it made it feel like a real occasion, particularly my farming mentor, Tim, in seeing me collect my first cheque for lambs reared on his farm. Thanks mate.

Unfortunately, I got more than a cheque on that day – I also sprained ligaments in my foot. I wasn’t doing anything remotely hazardous or exciting, just walking between pens at market. So with college finished for the summer and a wealth of work to be done I’ve been fairly useless this past week. “Limp-Along-Lizzie” is my new nickname and I’m working hard to lose it before it sticks.

Thankfully the foot seems to be recovering fairly fast and I managed to hobble about wool-wrapping at college recently thanks to a friend driving me about for a day. Bless him, he ended up driving more than 130 miles, but it was good therapy being able to work again.

A fortnight ago I went on my first shearing course at a farm in Barton, south of the Humber Bridge, and discovered why people get so addicted to shearing. It’s the skill needed, the physicality and adrenalin rush, the pride and satisfaction in the speed and quality of clipping. But it kills the back.

I also discovered that every breed has its own problems – whether it’s the Swaledale’s sharp horns in the back of your legs, the “littleness” of a Shetland, the sheer size and weight of a Cheviot ewe or Suffolk tup, or the waspishness of a Charollais cross.

The North of England Mule was by far the best in the temperament stakes, but the fleece was just a bit stickier to get the clippers through than the Cheviot’s, which just melted off.

The weather was perfect on the first day of the course and not so good on the second, but the sheep had been under cover for the night so it didn’t stop us. Several neighbouring farmers donated sheep or just came to help and watch how we got on.

At one point we even had the unexpected drama of a Shetland getting onto the roof above us. For a little while we couldn’t understand how it could possibly have got there. A little bit of detective work showed the shed is built into the field behind it, and the puzzled sheep was sent back down.

The shearing course marked the beginning of summer and the end of our academic year. Many of us are returning after the summer to do our third year and work for a BSc degree in Agriculture, but in the meantime, college life continues.

Since our group of students have just finished a complete course (Foundation degree in Agriculture) we’ve got a graduation ceremony this year as well as the famous Summer Ball to look forward to, although I might be a bit restricted on the dancing and running about bits.

Not a happy note to conclude on (and I know people will have been exposed to enough news to know the facts backwards), but the last of the shootings in Cumbria occurred in precisely the area I was talking about last month. I’ve known Eskdale all my life and I’m going back again this year to help with renovation work on a property. That valley has an incredibly close and friendly community. Crime is as rare as hens’ teeth. Everyone knows everyone else and looks out for them. My deepest sympathies to all involved.

Lizzie Jennings, 21, is in the second year of a two-year foundation degree course in Agriculture at Bishop Burton College in Yorkshire