Farm Fit Competition!
To find out how many steps Britain’s Fittest Farmers and Stella the dairy cow take in one week going about their daily farming business!
Farm Fit Competition 2021
Have you ever wondered how active British farmers and their livestock are?! The sustainable farming charity, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) teamed up with Arla Foods and Farmers Weekly to find out!
For seven days, from Sunday 21st to Saturday 27th March 2021 we followed Britain’s Fittest Farmers, Emma Ashley and James Arne, and Stella Premier Jetske a Friesian dairy cow to see just how much they mooo’ved!
In total, 510,188 steps were taken by the three participants as they went about their daily business. Read their mini daily diaries below to get an insight into everyday farming life, which was also promoted on the LEAF Open Farm Sunday Facebook channel #FarmFitCow. Meet our participants in conversation with LEAF Chief Executive Caroline Drummond here.
To guess how many steps Emma, James and Stella each took during the seven day run up to LEAF Online Farm Sunday on 28th March. To note: we just counted two of Stella’s legs (left forwards/right forwards — not all four legs!).
Congratulations to the competition winner, Penny B in Norfolk, who made the closest guess and won a lovely hamper of Arla products.
Introducing our participants:
Emma and James won the title Britain’s Fittest Farmers in a gruelling national competition organised by Farmers Weekly. Our third participant, Stella Premier Jetske, lives on an organic dairy farm in the South Downs National Park and produces delicious nutritious milk for Arla Foods.
Name: James Arney
Location: Frome, Somerset
Third-generation farmer James works for a dairy unit rearing heifers, young female calves, and keeps a small flock of his own ewes (female sheep).
His farming keeps him in good shape, but he enjoys hitting the gym and playing cricket and football, too.
“Fitness is the main way of managing my mental health,” he explains. “Farming is a 24⁄7 job and can often control your life, so having time off is a great way of relaxing.
“Living and working at home can be stressful, so managing time off is crucial and something I push for as the youngest partner in the business.”
James has kindly written a blog for LOFS about why Health and Wellbeing is so important in his day to day life, you can read this here.
Name: Emma Ashley
Location: Hertford, Hertfordshire
“Fitness has gone from childhood fun to a way to focus my mind,” says Emma, who runs the shoot and manages the conservation of wild meadows on her family’s arable farm.
Being part of a small farm means she needed to find part-time work elsewhere, so she trained as an accountant and a personal trainer.
“I run a weekly bootcamp for our tenants, recognising that living on a farm can be lonely for them too. I write training programmes and open up our farm gym to fellow farmers,” she says.
“Maintaining a life balance and a resilience is key to both physical and mental health.”
Name: Stella Premier Jetske
Location: West Sussex
Stella is part of a herd of Friesian dairy cows, managed by Harry Holt, on an organic farm near Chichester, West Sussex. Here, all the herd wear sensors to monitor activity of the cows to ensure they are at peak health. The milk Stella produces goes to Arla Foods then on to McDonald’s.
Stella lives out in the fields in the summer months, grazing on lush grass with her friends and family, and is happy taking part in this challenge to see if she is more active than Britain’s Fittest Farmers — and you!
About Farmers Weekly’s Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition:
Britain’s Fittest Farmer was launched by Farmers Weekly as a fun way of sparking a vital discussion about the physical and mental health of the nation’s farmers. As farming becomes less active and more mechanised and office-based, it’s more important than ever before to make sure Britain’s farmers are getting the exercise that they need to stay fit and healthy. The competition aims to get all farmers thinking and talking about their health — physical and mental. James and Emma were winners of Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition in 2020.
Any farmers who would like to take part in the next Britain’s Fittest Farmer Competition can put in an application here.
SUNDAY 21st March 2021
It’s Sunday and for some it may be a day of rest but anyone who works on a farm will know otherwise.…. my day began with morning run then off to finish our ditch management which we started last Sunday. James, my brother took control of the digging but I’d like to think that I took overall responsibility of the job.
This meant that I was mainly on foot checking for any unwanted items in the ditches which fly-tippers leave for us farmers to clear up. Then doubling back on what James had done and armed with my trusty spade, I made sure that the pipes were unblocked and that our daffodils were still bringing colour to our verges on what was a slightly dull day.
It’s an annual task that’s well worth the effort and by doing it we prevent surface water on highway, it creates bank vegetation, maintains buffer strip and helps prevent pollution which in turn helps the wildlife.….just a few reasons why we do ditch management.
All in all a rewarding morning which makes for a deserving Sunday lunch and then into the gym with daughter Ellie and Lulu our pooch who keeps me company.
In training for Britain’s Fittest Farmer, but feeling slightly guilty after Sunday lunch, I set my targets on leisurely Sunday afternoon session before a short walk with Ellie and Lulu to finish the day.
Fingers crossed that the weather improves as the week goes on and I can share more photos of our farm with you all.….How many steps/distance did I achieve today?
Normal service resumes for me. A day full of feeding lambs and cattle. On the farm today we also did our monthly field walk where we test and look at grass growth of our grazing and silage ground. Hopefully with the warm weather this will keep improving. No fitness for me today. But have done lots of walking
Today Stella and her girlfriends have spent the day grazing. As the weather improves and the grass growth speeds up she will spend more time outside. At the moment she will spend the nights in the cow shed but pretty soon she’ll be outside day and night. Some fields are just a short walk away while others can be up to a kilometre from the milking parlour. But with good tracks to walk on and pedicure from the herdsman to check her feet are healthy Stella will comfortably walk the distance.
Monday 22nd March 2021
Stella and the rest of the herd are out all day today. She comes in for milking at 5am from her cosy cubicle bed, we checked in to see how many steps she’d taken in the last 24hours and from there she went straight up the farm track to a fresh patch of pasture. We give Stella a fresh strip everyday. The line in the field of the picture where the herd are grazing shows the strip they grazed yesterday and the darker, lush grass they’re on today. We call this strip grazing and will move the herd around the fields this way to make the most of pasture. Once grazed the pasture will be left to recover for around 3 weeks, which is about the time it takes for the cows to graze all the paddocks, before they return to the first field and the cycle starts again.
I started today with a morning run as I do every Monday. It sets me up for the morning ahead which normally involves a few homemade biscuits which is my contribution to my dads endless supply of tea. Every Monday we both sit down and go through the week ahead and the farm accounts. We like to take a break to stretch our legs mid morning and take Lily & Amber (dads dogs) out for walk before we get back to the books.
Monday afternoons is time to myself so I work off those biscuits and spend 2 hours in the gym combing aerobics and weights before I prepare for our weekly boot camp session for the farms tenants and staff. With lockdown it means that our normal sessions have had to change so I now run zoom fitness sessions which families can join in with. Our sessions each last 45 mins so check out my video clips to see what we do.
.…How many steps/distance did I achieve today?
As the weather has been lovely today we have been out fencing getting ready for turn out at the start of next week.
No workout as of yet as I’ve barely stopped, that will happen after work today. Lots of steps though.
Tuesday 23rd March 2021:
Not much to report from me thus far. Tuesday is my university day so I’ve been online studying from home today.
As normal an early start. Up at 5:45 to begin feeding and bedding the cattle. Started lambing our ewe lambs today so it’s going to be a very full on couple of weeks for us.
Not fitness as of yet however my Fitbit keeps telling me I need to get up and move. Hoping to get out for a run before it gets dark
The sun is shining and Stella is enjoying the view across the South Downs today.
The health of our dairy cows is extremely important. One main issue we regularly check are the cows feet. Mobility scoring the whole herd helps us identify any lame cows, and gives us an idea of how the general health of the herd is. Stella has brilliant feet and always scores well on her mobility scoring sheet. Here we score the cows as they walk by from 0 – 3, 0 being good and 3 being poor.
So all our girls have regular pedicures and happy hooves. This means they are happy to stand in the parlour to be milked and to walk the pastures around the dairy enjoying the scenery like our gorgeous girl Stella.
I always try and start with a heart pumping exercise and today it was in the gym on the spinning bike for 45mins. After that it was head down preparing my notes for the farms weekly team meeting. As part of our staff’s wellbeing policy launched during lockdown last year, I have a regular slot on the agenda giving tips on healthy eating & fitness.
After this it was off to clear the plainings which were delivered yesterday.
We put these to good use by filling in holes and levelling our farm tracks and yard. It’s a lengthy job, taking up most of the day sitting in the cab of our JCB but Terence, our site manager took a turn in the cab and so equipped with my shovel, I had a go at some hard graft as well.
At the end of the day the gym was calling and I worked on flexibility after all that shovelling!
.…How many steps/distance did I achieve today
Wednesday 24th March 2021:
Started the day in the gym doing weights.…..weather was looking a bit dull but the outlook later was promising so I took myself off to the local town as Wednesday is market day and I combined that with a quick shop around the supermarket before heading back to base.
Arriving back I jumped on our buggy and headed over to check on our owl & bat boxes. We have 3 owl boxes located in one of our fields which were put up a few years ago but are now in need of repairs or replacing. Every year we’ve been successful with young chicks and we work with volunteers from our local owl watch as a license is required to physically handle the chicks. My task was checking the condition of the boxes and making sure that the cameras secretly installed nearby are all in working order. As the afternoon went on, the grey sky became blue and I was able to repair a broken door to one of the boxes so fingers crossed we’ll have another successful year of breeding.
Next it was time for a run while the sun was still out.
.…How many steps/distance did I achieve today?
We have been TB testing today. As the dairy farm that we supply our heifers to are currently shut down, we have to be tested every 60 days. This means every animal has to be injected with two different injections to see if it is carrying TB. We tested 290 animals today starting at 10 o’clock we were finished by 1. All the general farm work was done before hand so up at 6 o’clock to start that.
Lots is steps in today making up for the lack yesterday.
Onto more fencing this afternoon as well as checking the ewe lambs every house for any new born lambs. The weather is glorious so I imagine it’ll be a late finish tonight.
This morning we found Stella enjoying her bed, or cubicle as we call them on the farm. These beds are in our biggest cow shed on the farm, the whole herd comes in here to sleep and digest their food. This act of eating and digesting is called cudding, which a cow will do up to 10 hours a day. That’s a lot of chewing!
A cow lies down for approximately 14 hours of the day, and sleeps for about 4. These are normally divided into small 30min power naps.
Stella and her girlfriends lie in super soft comfy sand beds. These are perfect not only for cow comfort but they help reduce the risk of mastitis. Their beds are cleaned and levelled by the dairy team, Martin and Paige, as they call the girls in for milking.
Thursday 25th March 2021:
Did you know a cows tongue is 3 feet long? When she’s grazing Stella uses her tongue to wrap around the pasture and tear it off. This week we have been seeding new pastures. The seed is mixture of grasses, clovers and broadleaf plants light chicory and plantain as well as parsley and yarrow. Having such a diverse mix of plants helps to keep Stella’s diet healthy but also ensures a steady growth of edible plants for her throughout the season. Each plant will have a different root system and all the roots interconnect and improve the soil and the micro fauna (tiny bugs) as well as fungi living in the soil.
What comes out of Stella at the other end is then gobbled up by all those tiny bugs and plant roots to start the cycle of growth all over again.
The views across our farm are lovely and in the early morning the dawn chorus dominates. I had to take a few moments this morning to stop my run and watch the resident hares showing off.
My jobs for the day was to check our wild bird covers and ponds. Our mix of seed crop has created an attractive habitat for wild birds and our annual (May) BTO breeding bird survey is proof of its success. As I jump off the buggy and walk around taking a closer look, I can’t resist getting my pocket binoculars out to see if the hares were still about but no so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning for them to show themselves again.
Back to the ponds and other than a bit of ‘housekeeping’, all was looking well, healthy and providing a habitat for a range of permanent wildlife as well as periodic visitors.
It’s been a good day and I’ve enjoyed my walk around the farm but it’s back to our farm office to record my notes and sign off for the day.
The gym came next where I spent 30 mins each on the rower and the echo bike.
.…How many steps/distance did I achieve today?
Today started with a 5 k run during sun rise. I always find this the best time to run as no one else is about and you can enjoy the countryside at its finest.
Normal farm work then resumed with feeding and bedding all cattle. As well my small holding of pigs (3) which always love new bedding.
As well as the farming side of the business we also have some shed rentals. Today we were digging holes for a new security fence to go around the outside of the building. This meant jack hammering through solid tarmac which is never easy on the hands. No so many steps but lots of energy exerted.
Friday 26th March 2021:
Friday! Finally the end of the week. But that doesn’t mean a lot when you’re a farmer and you’ve got to work weekends.
Today I was doing some contract fencing for a neighbouring sheep farm and I happened to pick the wettest day of the week to do it. It was torrential rain here this morning so full waterproof gear was very much a must.
This took me about 5 hours to complete and was home by 2. Once I got home it was time to do some office work. Every week we have to enter any injections, AI’s and general animal health onto UNIFORM which is an app we use to keep animals records.
Did you know the length of a cows pregnancy is 283 days, which is around 9 months. On the farm we give Stella and the rest of the girls a dry period. This is the last 6 weeks of pregnancy where she stops milking and has a rest period, not just for her and her calf but it is also very important for her udder health. All the goodness in the milk is stored up and colostrum is made ready for the new born calf.
Last year Stella gave birth to a gorgeous heifer calf. This video is one of her sisters last year giving her baby lots of love. She is now pregnant to her second calf which will be born in August.
Out for a morning run and met dad out having his morning walk. As I ran passed he called ‘don’t forget those gutters’. ‘No I haven’t forgotten’ I replied.
The gutters which needed cleaning are on what was once our poultry shed which is now an agricultural barn, farm office and workshop. It’s not too high but with site manager Terence not being keen on heights and strapped in my harness, I volunteered to go up. It’s great, I could see the sheep in the next field from up there. It’s rewarding job although the end results aren’t visible to those at ground level.
My brother James is the manager of a neighbouring farm so after lunch I headed off across the footpaths for a visit and to see their beef cattle. Daughter Ellie was so excited to see them.… she’s becoming a right little farmer. Check today’s photos of our route taken & spot out our neighbour’s pet Emu.
.…How many steps/distance did I achieve today?
DAY 7 — final day!
Saturday 27th March 2021:
The day started with a run and was followed by a regular 121 session with one of our staff. As the farms wellbeing buddy, last year we introduced a wellbeing policy and Dave became the first member of the team to embrace it. Last April Dave suffered a heart attack and spent 3 weeks in hospital during lockdown and in week 4 he was discharged. With no close family Dave, who has worked here for 30 years, stayed at the farm to convalesce. We kept an eye on him and I introduced him to a some gentle daily walking. He soon grew stronger and with a healthy diet he was back to light duties. 11 months on, every Saturday morning we take a break from work to walk and talk.
I usually finish off Saturday mornings with a quick tidy up of the farm office unless it’s the shooting season and then I help with that.
Saturday afternoon I was able to spend 2 hours in our gym on weights, the rower and bike.
Satisfied with the achievements of the week, I’m now ready to start the next.
.…How many steps/distance did I achieve today?
The end of a Stella week and our girl has put her best foot forwards in the stepathon! She’s shown us some amazing penthouse views from the top pastures and eaten her way through 350kg of forage over the last 7 days.
When I spoke to her this morning, Stella told me to say that she hopes you’ve enjoyed her fun facts and that if you ever want to know more a about life on a dairy farm she’d happily talk until the cows come home!
Early start again this morning. I was up at 5:30 to feed and bed the cattle. This was followed by reading the TB results from Wednesday. This took about 4 hours this morning and thankfully we went all clear.
This afternoon I have been digging holes and mixing concrete by hand to install some security fencing around some of our shed that we rent out.
No workout as of yet but plenty of steps.
The results are in!
A huge congratulations to Penny B from Norfolk who won a fabulous selection of Arla products!
Their total steps for the 7 day period were:
Emma: 210,472 steps
James: 215,629 steps
Stella: 84,087 steps
A huge amount of steps and what an achievement, well done all!
Thank you to Arla Foods and Farmers Weekly for supporting this competition and for everyone taking part.
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