fortunes for Brooksby two
Its now over a year since
we first met our adopted
Brooksby College students
Phil Knight and Ted Duffin.
Still in their farm experience
year, Andy Collings went to
see how they had fared
during the winter
FARMING is not all about sitting in warm, comfortable tractor cabs – particularly when its winter and the bulk of the arable work has been accomplished.
For students Phil Knight and Ted Duffin – students which farmers weekly is following the career of – a winter on the farm has been met with mixed fortunes.
The last time we spoke to Phil was in October when his harvest job at a large Lincs arable farm was drawing to an end. After a short spell out of work, he was offered a job at the farm his father works.
A 240ha (600-acre) mixed farm running 250 cows with 200 followers plus 120ha (300 acres) of maize and cereals should keep him fully occupied until the September start date for his next year in Brooksby College.
At least, it will do in time. One week into the job and disaster struck. Sheeting down a rick of straw, a bale gave way sending him crashing to the ground braking his right ankle as he landed.
The result has been an ankle set in plaster, two crutches and nine weeks off work. He has however, a date for the plaster to be removed and, after a couple of weeks physiotherapy, hopes to be back at work soon.
"The cows are milked three times a day," he says, "And are zero grazed virtually all the year round. While I shall not be involved directly with the milking side, there will be plenty to do on the feed front – both taking the forage to the cows and making three cuts of grass silage and helping with the maize silage."
Meanwhile, Ted has been suffering a different kind of plastering – in the form of the Hunt Ball. Fair to say, he was not at his best when we saw him last week at his parents farm near Mountsorrel.
Normally employed at a 480ha (1200-acre) farm at Rothley, Leics, where the main enterprises comprise a 220-head dairy herd plus followers and a significant area of combinable crops of cereals, he spends the occasional day helping his father and brother when an extra hand is required.
On this occasion he was helping with the brucellosis testing of his fathers suckler cow herd – a job which needs to be performed every two years.
But back at Rothley the winter has, in his opinion, been pretty interesting.
"A lot of the work has been involved in the feeding of young stock but we have also been making some serious alterations to the grain store with the construction of a new floor storage area," he explains. "There are also plans to install a new milk tank and make numerous other alterations."
A spell of warm, dry weather has also prompted some field work. Ted reports he has been involved in drilling some 120ha (300 acres) of spring beans and, more recently been bowser man for the liquid nitrogen applications.
With spring fast approaching both Ted and Phil look forward to the busy season ahead. But both are quite adamant that dairy cows are not for them in the long term.
"I like working on a mixed farm and the variety it provides," says Ted. "But milking cows every day is not for me."
It is a thought echoed by Phil who still intends to secure his future on a large arable unit. Time will tell but, on this occasion we leave the last word to Ted.
"In todays climate, I would work at anything as long as it pays," he says.
Walking wounded. Phil Knight plus broken ankle, following his tumble from a straw rick.
Ted Duffin: "Winters been pretty interesting but spring should be better," he says.