All of it! I'm mad keen when we do the silage harvest and all the big machines turn up as I'm a massive kid at heart. I just love big shiny tractors! The people I work with are fantastic and the surroundings are brilliant.
Josh's job title is Livestock and Field Technician at Rothamsted Research
What I do
Hear more about Josh's role by watching the video below...
How I became a technician
At school I was terrible academically and I just wanted to be outside all the time. My dad’s side of the family come from a farming background so in the summer holidays I was always out on the farm with my uncle. At 16 I decided to go to agricultural college, but I was too young, and I didn't like staying away from home during the week. I decided to return to school for my A-levels. I picked up some weekend work at a local dairy farm and started off doing milking and feeding calves.
When I finished my A-levels the guy I worked part time for suggested doing an apprenticeship with him. I did a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Agriculture, which I loved, and I worked there for 10 years! A livestock-based apprenticeship involves milking cows, feeding calves and machinery work – which is anything from servicing machinery to rolling, mowing, and harvesting – the list is endless! I was assessed and given a grade relevant to what I was doing at the time. I think it helped that the man I was working for was a really good businessman as well as a good farmer as that rubbed off on me.
At 20-years-old I went on to do a Level 4 qualification in agricultural business management. Considering I am terrible at anything classroom-related I did really well and I became the Duchy College Student of the Year. I went to college once a fortnight and most of my time was spent working on the farm. I have been in my current job for two years. My dad has worked here for 35 years, on the science side, so I used to come here when I was a boy.
A surprising fact
about my job
Rothamsted is a special farm because it is so connected with science. If I look out of the door one way, there is a massive farmyard with livestock, machinery and sheds, but if I look the other way we have water labs, soil labs, herbage labs and everything to do with the science side. My job is to try and bridge science and farming.
Certain experiments need products supplied – such as fertilisers, products or harvesting – and I do that, along with a couple of the other guys. There are loads of different science projects going on. One of the projects we currently have involves 90 animals all split into three groups in three different sheds that have three similar diets (all eating grass but different types of grass). They also have an automatic feeder – which dispenses little bits of sugar beet for them to eat. Whilst they are eating there are sensors that take samples of methane and carbon dioxide as they are breathing to see if different grass types have different outcomes on how much methane animals are outputting. In total we have 330 cattle and 500 sheep along with arable land. A lot of the grassland is used for experiments. There are slurry experiments going on too and so there is a lot of physical work for that.
A typical day in my
As an Agricultural Technician you are looking after cows, driving tractors, helping out on research projects and doing crop establishment. We help with a lot of the research projects that are on-going such as GPS collars on cows, grain samples at harvest time, heat maps for where cows spend their time – helping to innovate things for farmers of tomorrow. There's no such thing as a typical day!
In the winter there is more of what you'd consider to be a 'typical day' as all our cattle are inside. I feed the animals, another guy checks on any cows that have calved overnight and someone else checks the sheep. Somewhere between 8 am and 10.30 am we have a coffee – that's the only time we are all doing the same thing! After that, we can be doing anything from calving or looking after the welfare of the sheep, then there's maintenance and even tree planting.
A little more about
my everyday role
There are seven of us on the farm as well as some office staff. Occasionally we work alone but when we are working with the cows, we all get involved. We have someone who leads on each piece of work, and it is very much a team game. I am the youngest and I think the oldest person is 55. They have a lot more experience than I have, but my strength is the new technology.
I didn’t have any experience with the GPS stuff before I came here but because of the age I am, and always being around computers growing up, I understand it.
I am not sure, but I don’t want to end up in an office as I like playing on the machinery and running around with the cows!