'This is all I know. I love farming': Yorkshire woman picks up national award after years of hard work

Life on the buck rake, dribble bar and silage pit was swapped for the far more unfamiliar surroundings of The Vox conference centre in Birmingham for an evening last week when another of the county’s finest farming people was honoured, this time at the British Farming Awards 2022.

Amanda Thomas of Scorton picked up a silver award at the presentation in the category of Farm Worker of the Year, pipped to the gold award by another Yorkshire farm worker Melanie (Mel) Jackson of Middleton on the Wolds-based Clive Soanes Broilers.

Amanda grew up on her father Richard’s farm at Stokesley but didn’t have the opportunity to follow him into the farm, as it had to be sold, nonetheless she has made a career out of farm work and said she has high standards in all areas but particularly in achieving a consistency in silage for cows.

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“Getting that silage pit right is what I thrive on the most. It’s not a job anyone can jump on. You’ve got to enjoy it and make a good job of it because if it’s not right the cows won’t eat it. The state of the silage is important to the herd.

“I’m looking for grass chop length. The shorter the chop length the nicer it rolls. I want it neat and with no lumps, that’s when it rolls out lovely.

“The more you can compact it the less it will heat up in the winter and then there’s no mould. The more mould there is and the way it comes if not rolled properly is a cost to the farmer.

“For me it’s that difference between a farmer rolling their sheet back and thinking great, there’s no mould there, what a job you’ve made and we’ll have you back next year; or if the farmer sees a half-hearted job by rolling the sheet back and seeing mould and more waste than enough, we’ll get someone else in.

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“I won’t let people rush me either. If I’m not happy with the way the pit is looking I won’t let it go. The job’s got to be done right, so if I think I’ve not got enough time to roll or get it rolled before the trailer is to come in to take it, I’ll just stop them and say wait.

Amanda said she worked for dairy farming couple Richard and Pamela Thompson for twelve years having joined them from leaving school and has worked for agricultural contractor David Adamson of Atley Fields in North Cowton for the past four seasons.

“Richard and Pamela had milk cows, but they changed over to a beef herd when they came out of dairying. I had been with them full-time handling all of the land work and looking after their cows.

“When Richard got contractors in it was David Adamson, which is where I am now. I was doing bits for David whilst I was at Richard’s. It’s David I’ve learned off. He’s spent lots of years on the buck rake. David is well known as a silage contractor and slurry contracting is another of his biggest businesses.

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“I work with David from February to the end of October and then I do my own things during the winter as KAT Services. Most of that work is relief milking that I will be doing this year for three dairy farms.

One of those dairy farms uses robotic milking. Amanda explained that her job on that farm is not strictly relief milking as such.

“Each of the herds I work with are Holsteins. I work for Stephen Herring at North Cowton; Paul Farrow at Barton; and Rob Bellerby at Picton near Yarm where Rob has robots. I don’t do the milking for the obvious reason but I will look after all of the other work regarding serving cows and feeding them. When you’re used to being in a milking parlour robots are a totally different thing, but you are still needed to make sure that those cows that don’t go, you find out the reason why and what needs to happen.

“You’ve got to make sure the ones that haven’t got up out of cubicles will go in and I’m looking for ones that are bulling, new calvers and hospital ones. It’s still as busy as being in the parlour.

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Amanda said that the part of her job she likes most is the tractor work, which is more from February onwards.

“I like the tractors, but then it’s nice to get off them and forget about them for a month and concentrate on cows. I get variety of jobs with the tractor work and at David’s you get given a tractor that is yours for that season, so you’re not just jumping on anything. I’ve been driving a Valtra all of this summer. It’s not the biggest Valtra but it is powerful and has autosteer. I drive the triple mowers and the dribble bar when we are on with those jobs.

Amanda said her dream role would be to drive a large, modern combine harvester for a season, but that any dreams she had of perhaps one day having her own farm are not dead but she’s happy with where her farming life has taken her so far.

“I’ve been on a little combine but I’d love to spend a season on a big, modern one. I’ve had a couple of days on one so far. I’ll fulfil that ambition somewhere whether I have to go down country a bit to do it.

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“This is all I know. I love farming. Years ago I thought more about farming in my own right but not now because I quite like finishing work and coming home.

“It’s still partly there as a dream, but in reality it is probably never going to happen. To me I’ve got the best of everything. I’m that person that a farmer can ring and say ‘Mand, can you come and do this?’ I go, and I know I do it to the best of my ability. it’s the next best thing to having your own farm, with no worries about things after having done the best I can.

Mandy also has an artic class 1 wagon licence and occasionally hauls livestock, either pigs or cattle, for a haulier taking them to Woodheads at Colne.

As for her hobbies, they are all farm related.

“When I get a day off I will either go and give my friend James Ramsden a hand who has a farm up in the middle of nowhere in Middlesmoor and has sheep or I will go and see my gran at Seamer and help my cousin Matthew Nichols who runs the farm. I’m not one for sitting at home.

“It was really nice to get nominated and then to win the silver award last week. It’s nice to know you’re appreciated.

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