Jessica Langton is final year animal science student at the University of Nottingham, a dairy farmer, a NFU (National Farmers’ Union) Dairy Board appointee, as well as being a Young Farmer Representative for the East Midlands. As an ambassador, she wants to encourage a greater connection between the public and the countryside, and broaden her knowledge of different sectors and the policies impacting agriculture. Jessica is also a fourth-generation dairy farmer, as well as working part time at Genus ABS as a reproductive management specialist.
“Farming is increasingly adopting new technologies to innovate and improve efficiency. Maths is an integral part of our business as we constantly monitor production and cattle performance with the goal of improving feed efficiency.”
Cultivating my love of maths
My secondary school teachers helped cultivate my love of maths. I took part in the Maths Challenge every year, achieving silver and bronze awards most years as well as achieving best in year in 2015. I enjoyed maths throughout my GCSE years, achieving an A* in my final exams and I further enjoyed applying this knowledge to my physics A level, achieving a B!
Combining work and study
I’m currently in my third and final year of a BSc Animal Science degree at the University of Nottingham. I have always had a keen interest in dairy cattle and fertility; therefore, I chose to focus my dissertation on ‘within and between donor variation during transvaginal follicular aspiration in cattle’.
Alongside this, I work part time for Genus ABS as a reproductive management specialist on their Insights Programme. The practical experience I gain through working for Genus compliments the knowledge and theory aspect of my degree.
I live on my family’s beef and dairy farm in Derbyshire milking the pedigree herd of Locklan Holsteins. My role is managing the cows and ensuring the smooth running of this aspect of the business. I am particularly keen on progressing our herd’s genetics and I enjoy showing our calves each year at a local and national level.
I am also currently an appointee to the NFU Dairy Board and the East Midlands NFU Student and Young Farmer (S&YF) ambassador. These roles involve representing members’ views whilst bridging the gap between farming and politics. The S&YF ambassador programme is aimed at improving the inclusivity and diversity of agriculture, engaging the British public with farming and the countryside, and providing a voice for young farmers across the country.
Combining my studies, working on the farm, working for Genus and my roles within the NFU has always been challenging; however, I have acquired excellent time management and organisational skills to ensure I meet all deadlines and meetings.
Becoming a keyworker during COVID
COVID had major effects on my studies. I went from having multiple in-person lectures every week to everything being taught from an online platform. I had more flexibility in accessing the learning materials; therefore, I was able to take on more work with Genus and help out on the farm more.
Working for Genus and being a dairy farmer classified me as a key worker, meaning I was able to go out to work every day. I enjoyed this as I felt less isolated than many of my friends.
The evolution of modern farming
Farming is increasingly adopting new technologies to innovate and improve efficiency. Maths is an integral part of our business as we constantly monitor production and cattle performance with the goal of improving feed efficiency.
Our farm is keen to improve its sustainability at any given opportunity. We are in the Higher-Level Stewardship and Entry-Level Stewardship schemes, which are helping us to improve the biodiversity of our farm. We are also in the Sustainable Farming Incentive Pilot which is helping us to transition from the Basic Payment Scheme to the Environmental Land Management Scheme.
As part of this, we are increasing our woodland by 0.75 hectares and we are planting herbal leys to improve our soil structure to increase carbon sequestration to help offset our emissions and achieve the NFU’s target of net zero by 2040. I enjoy producing nutritious, healthy and sustainable food for the nation. The country is only 60% self-sufficient in food production – I would like to see this increase through more locally sourced, British produce.
(Diverse) teamwork makes the dream work
Throughout my various extra-curricular activities at university, I have learnt that being part of a team formed from a collection of different degrees is better as this creates a diverse range of skills and expertise by bringing different backgrounds together. I’ve learnt that collaboration is a key factor in innovation and building efficient solutions to challenges.
Diversity of thought is vital in maths and STEM to improve innovation and devise effective solutions. This academic year a friend set and I up the Women in STEM Society at the University of Nottingham to try and improve the diversity and inclusivity of STEM.
Coming up next
I have secured a PhD in ruminant health technologies which commences on the 1st July after I finish my BSc in Animal Science. I am looking forward to improving my research skills and specialising further in ruminant health and disease. I am also excited to continue growing our herd at home and increasing our milk production.
Main image © John Cottle/National Farmers Union
Cow image © Littledumpy34 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0