Opinion: Silaging, paperwork and parenting

Summer drifts on in our quiet corner of the Tamar valley and it is easy to ignore the chaos that seems to be engulfing the wider country.

I try to remain engaged and interested in current affairs, but in recent months I have found myself becoming more disheartened by the constant flopping about of our politicians and the endless blabbering of the media feeding us inflated and contradictory waffle even if very little appears to be actually happening.

Like many people, I have begun to zone out of the conversation and focus my attention on matters closer to my home and my heart.

See also: Let’s collaborate and communicate

With the bulk of silage season behind us, a good stack of bales to carry us through the winter and the maize crop now up to my shoulders, we are feeling thankful for the favourable weather that makes our job so much less stressful.

Third-cut is always a more relaxed affair and this year we have been especially grateful for the help from Will’s youngest brother, Harry, who, at 17, is proving to be a reliable and talented tractor driver. His assistance has made all the difference and he grows in skill and confidence every week.

Once again, our little campsite is proving popular. Of course there was a last-minute scramble to get everything ready before our first guests arrive.

The new composting toilet is proving to be a remarkable success and the reviews have been top-notch.

I really enjoy managing the campsite; it’s lovely to meet new people from all over the UK and share our beautiful farm with them for a few days.

Though I never tire of the view, it is always gratifying to hear how much other people appreciate the landscape that we work so hard to maintain.

I’m currently up to my armpits in paperwork as I wade through the mid-tier application process for the home farm.

We successfully applied for an agreement a few years ago for the other part of the farm, but the main block of land was still in an ELS agreement, hence why I’m applying again.

I found the meeting with the advisers from Natural England really useful and hopefully I can get together a more financially beneficial scheme this time by choosing more suitable options.

It is a time-consuming and complicated task, but I’m far too tight to employ an agent, so I must soldier stubbornly on.

Fancy drone

I’m grateful to my neighbour and his fancy drone, which took detailed aerial photos of all the fields making the task of completing the environmental record maps much quicker.

We have been really pleased with the way the cows have performed this year; all the calves are really starting to bloom now and we will soon be putting out the creep feeders once again.

Bulling activity has dropped off and we hope that the majority of the cows have got back in calf swiftly.

We will be switching the bulls around this week; our young Limousin bull has worked hard and hopefully we will be reaping the rewards of investing in his genetics next year.

We use our faithful Hereford as the sweeper; a true professional, he will mop up any returners or late calving cows without breaking sweat.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the addition of maize to our rations this winter improves performance and hopefully reduces our production costs by increasing daily gain.

It has always been our goal to produce our cattle entirely from home-grown feed and we are getting there albeit slowly. For us, it seems this is the most sustainable way to farm and insulate ourselves from external volatility.

On the home front life is changing rapidly. Teddy is about to finish his first year at primary school and it has been wonderful to see him flourish, make new friends and grow in confidence.

I really enjoy getting involved with the school activities such as sports day and the swimming gala. I even bought the kids pony up to do pony rides at the annual fête, much to Teddy’s delight as he showed off his steed to all his mates.

Lydia is growing up quickly, too, into a strong-willed, lively little girl who is positively exhausting to keep up with.

Her greatest passion is riding and I have warned Will that her hobby is going to get very expensive. While Teddy is happy to amble about, she demands a rosette after every ride.


This is my final column for Farmlife and I just wanted to say what a privilege it has been to share part of my life with you.

Over the past three years our family and farm has changed dramatically as has the industry as a whole. It has been exciting and stressful in equal measure and we have come through some of the hardest situations we have ever faced and emerged stronger and more resilient.

Family and farming are inextricably linked and I feel so very blessed to live my life with my kids, husband, business and social life united and woven through our rural community.

Sharing my experiences and opinions has been an immense pleasure. As for what to do next, well, I’ve caught the literary bug now so I’ll just keep typing and see where it leads me…

Jess Jeans and her husband Will run 75 suckler cows on an 80ha National Trust farm on the Devon/Cornwall border. They have two children, Teddy and Lydia. Jess has a degree in rural business management and enjoys horse riding in her spare time

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