The College Farm is a commercial operation which currently extends to over 180 hectares, providing arable, pasture and conservation areas, while being home to a number of specialist livestock enterprises.
Over £1 million has recently been invested on developing the Farm, as it seeks to reposition itself not only as one of the leading dairy farms in the region, but also as one of the leading providers of agricultural training and education.
Students’ access to these exemplar resources are continuously maximised, with daily access provided through timetabled teaching, together with practical farm duties which take place throughout the year.
The milking parlour, which opened in 2008, showcases the latest technology in which up to date recording and computerised monitoring systems enable maximum reproductive and nutritional performance from the herd. Access to this live information allows students to monitor individual cow performance on a daily basis. Further investment was completed in 2010, with the installation of new cubicles to set high welfare standards, and out of parlour feeders to continue to maximise efficiency and financial returns.
The Holstein milking herd operates at 250, producing an average of 9,500 litres. Recent emphasis on breeding quality replacements will allow a selective retention policy and a closed system to exist.
The sheep enterprise currently consists of two hundred ewes of a variety of different breeds crossed with Texel rams. This includes 60 Llanwenog ewes which are part of a long term research project with the breed society. Lambing takes place at the end of February through to March to produce finished lambs during the summer and early autumn.
The recent introduction of a new computerised flock recording programme in which individual ewe records will be kept will enable the analysis of different breeds' ability to produce the right conformation and weight of lamb in the shortest time possible. This in turn will enable the breed most suitable to this Farm to be selected for increased production, ease of management and greater profitability. It is anticipated that the input, collection and analysis of this data will further involve students and teaching staff.
A number of Beef sires are used on the Dairy herd for comparison. We have access to a large commercial Beef unit within the village of Cannington.
Arable and Machinery
The land currently utilised for arable production has a cropping rotation programme in which spring wheat and maize are grown, together with Italian ryegrass and red clover.
A 150 hp tractor with a power boost to 180 hp will be used to pull a sub soiler and single pass cultivator to increase work rate and efficiency for seedbed preparation for maize and grass establishment. The second tractor will be 130 hp with GPS satellite system fitted to spread fertiliser and spread to accurate bout width of a few centimetres also to increase bout spreading width from 12 to 24 metres therefore cutting fuel and time by half and increasing work rate per hour.
Once a basic level of competence has been reached in machinery operations, students go on to utilise the full range of modern equipment in undertaking farm related operations such as ploughing, drilling and mowing, fertiliser application and harvesting. In addition, several hectares are allocated for student trial plots each year.
The current estate management plan enables all students to participate in the maintenance and management of other aspects of the College land, such as fencing, hedge laying, coppicing and dry stone walling.
Future Farmers Academy
A group of leading agriculture organisations and employers have recently established the Future Farmers Group, to help Agriculture students progress into the industry, by offering them a fast-track route into management positions.
If you would like to find out more about this programme, perhaps with a view to joining the FFG, please click here.