Summer’s here and the exams are over

Exams seem like a distant memory, but it was certainly a relief to receive a letter saying I’d passed all of the second-year exams.

The prospect of retakes during the summer is less than appealing, as any student will know, but for an agricultural student it’s particularly daunting, as harvest and revision definitely don’t go together.

Harvest here in Devon, like many places in the country, has got off to a slow start. But we have managed to make the most of the brief spells of sunshine, and the indication is that the persistent summer rain has at least had a positive effect on the yields.

With the oilseed rape averaging 4t/ha, and the grain maize looking the best that we’ve seen it at this time of year, so the rain has had its upside.

cottonDespite the fact that there has been less time spent on the combine than we would have liked, things have still been busy. My brother recently bought 72 breeding ewes at Exeter Market, which is a first for us, as we have always been an arable and cattle farm. This has been a steep learning curve, but despite our lack of experience, we’ve so far not hit any serious problems.

We have all enjoyed this new challenge, but nobody has found the sheep more exciting than Skye, my brother’s sheepdog puppy. Considering that she’s had no training and is relying solely on her innate instinct, she is coming on remarkably well. Taking her out to see the sheep for the first time was an entertaining spectacle, for although she didn’t seem interested at first, this quickly changed with the realisation that they were more scared of her than she was of them. It’s now her favourite game.

Also occupying lots of our time is the new cattle shed that we are building. Doing all the work ourselves means that we have been kept busy concreting and laying stone, and knowing that the shed will last many generations, we are trying to get it just right. Dad spent hours one night guarding the building from prying animals in an attempt to keep the wet concrete flawless,. His efforts were in vain, as, when we returned in the morning, it appeared a bird had decided the shortest way home was right through the centre.

That said, the shed is really beginning to take shape, and will definitely turn out to be five-star accommodation for our South Devon cattle this winter.

Any extra spare moments that I have had have also been devoted to house hunting, as I’m set to begin my placement in Cambridge in mid-September.

Seeing the trial plots on our own farm has only made me more excited for my upcoming year. And from talking to friends who have already started, it seems as though everyone is getting on well and enjoying the challenge of working somewhere new.

Although the first few weeks of summer have been a bit slow, it’s looking as though the next few months are going to fly by. With a few long nights on the tractor finishing harvest, coupled with the move up to Cambridge to start work for Syngenta, it’s going to be autumn before I know it.

For now, though, I’m enjoying the summer; being out of the lecture theatres, and back on the farm, for what I’ve always thought is one of the most exciting times of the year.

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