Alan Johnson, Curriculum Manager for Agriculture at Bridgwater College’s Cannington Centre reports on this year’s charity Grass to Maize event:
The Rodway Young Farmers Club students were allocated a 30 acre (12 ha) field to mow and tedd out the day before the event. The clock started as soon as the grass was rowed up into swaths ready for the forager (3pm). Students then organised themselves into teams to get the grass off the field and into the clamp. This was the first year we have had a self-propelled forage harvester for students to use, they took it in turns to use the machine and carry out silage operations at Rodway Farm. The students also worked in teams to haul the crop to the clamp.
Once the grass was taken off the field the students started spreading slurry, ploughing started at midnight. Ploughing commenced throughout the morning, followed by the sub-soiling to break up compaction from the heavy trailers. The power harrows soon followed working the seedbed to the right depth for maize drilling. The students worked through until midday the following day when the field was complete ready for drilling under the 24 hr time frame, an amazing achievement.
Sponsor money is still being collected and the total is likely to be in excess of the £3,000 target.
Tractors and equipment were kindly donated by dealers which we very much appreciated. A big thank you goes to:
- Highwood Agriculture (Massey Ferguson and Plough)
- M Baker Engineering LTD Ilminster (McCormick)
- Smarts Agricultural Services (John Deere)
- James Pyrce Tractors LTD (CASE IH and Power Harrow)
The event was supervised by staff in the College’s Agriculture and Food teams, they worked with the students to ensure they were all able to participate and gain further experience and knowledge from the event.
Our students continue to work hard towards their qualification, below is the diary update from our regular bloggers:
This month on Rodway Farm we have had a very busy one to say the least. All the ewes and lambs are out in the field and growing really well, first cut silage is all done and clamped the low yielding herd are out grazing, whilst the high yielding cows are inside on a TMR ration and next winters maize is being drilled at the moment. With the recent purchase of two new Smyth trailers and the hire of a John Deere forager, we were able to help with the silage and take part in all of the activities.
Finishing assignments is now top priority for me and the other students on my course. At home, my Texel’s have just become Maedi Visna (MV) accredited after blood testing all of my ewes and rams. MV is a viral disease which was introduced into the UK through imported sheep and being clear of MV means I can sell at approved sales. This also means I can show my sheep in the MV accredited section at Texel sales which tends to realise a better price compared to non MV.
This month at college the weather has allowed us to prepare ground for drilling maize in the first week of May. Some of the ground which was being put back into maize was prepared by Rodway Young Farmer’s charity event, 24 hour Grass to Maize. This event was in aid of The Farming Community Network and Help for Heroes. The event was a success with all the designated fields mowed, raked, foraged, dunged, ploughed and power harrowed in 24 hours.
Along with this, all of our spring crops have been sown at home, with a new forage crop of Lupin’s and Triticale under sown with a grass variety of Westerwold for its high protein. With the weather having a break from the rain it has therefore allowed us to get some of our younger cattle out to grass. Within the last month I have applied for a summer harvest job with Velcourt, which I have been successful with and will be starting late June, early July. This opportunity will widen my experience with operating large machinery and working in a completely different area. I have achieved this with the help of the College and also due to the management of the College farm being a Manager of Velcourt.
This month we have been very busy preparing for maize and getting the silaging complete.
We had a big charity event called Grass to Maize for young farmers which we recently completed within 24 hours. We all worked really well together and managed to get hold of some tractors on demo from various dealers around Somerset. This allowed more students to be able to have the chance to haul the grass back to the clamp along with other jobs such as mowing, raking and tedding. After this we went on muck spreading, ploughing and power harrowing ready for the maize to be drilled this week.
We were lucky enough to be sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers who gave us a kind donation in which we were able to have some printed hoodies for the event. Johnny Clap contractors also gave us a kind donation towards our charity's which were Farming Community Network and Help for Heroes. We are still waiting to hear of the total amount which we raised but all in all it has been a very productive month which yet again I have enjoyed every minute of it.
Over the last month the majority of my focus, other than on study, has been on ‘24 hours Grass to Maize’ which was a logistical challenge. Initially we had planned to start at 10am on the Wednesday morning however due to the weather we moved it back to 12pm. However, the forager was not playing ball with us and after less than half a row of picking up, an engineer had to be called out. By 3pm we were back on track, however this didn’t last long before another breakdown. We had to make the call to Alvis’ contractors to bring their forager in, with the young farmer’s students driving along side, finally at a 9.15pm we were off again.
This was the first time I’d ever driven alongside a forager, so not only was it my first time but, it was dark and I was driving next to Alivis’ (I did not want to mess up!). But everything went to plan, with the majority of the 2nd year Mechanisation students showing us what to do.
I have been focusing on my assignment work, trying to get everything in so I can leave this year knowing I did my best. I honestly can’t believe how fast this year has gone!
So what’s next, well next Saturday (14th May) is the annual Somerset Young Farmers County Rally, which is one of Somerset’s biggest events of the year. It will include a day of handicrafts, main events and tug of war (my favourite part). My team ‘West Group Ladies’ will be trying to follow last year’s success and qualify for the South-West round, this would be a huge achievement for us!
Well, first cut of silage has been cut at Rodway, which I took part in we had four new tractors which were kindly donated to College for Grass to Maize. I now have my telehandler ticket. Which is another thing to add to my list of achievements. I’m on top of all my assignments and enjoying all the lessons. We have been learning about the heart in animal anatomy and we have done a dissection of the heart which was really interesting. We have been ploughing and cultivating on our machinery practicals and on our livestock we have been checking on the sheep for lameness and other health issues and treating them accordingly.
For more information about studying Agriculture at Bridgwater College’s Cannington Centre contact Information and Guidance on 01278 441234. Alternatively, Bridgwater College will be holding its next Open Evening on Wednesday 8 June at its Bridgwater Centre, or Tuesday 14 June at it’s Cannington Centre.