The farm is a classroom for learning; it enables the learners to gain a wide variety of experience by having facilities to work with. In 2008 students widened their experience through a range of small projects which included rearing broiler chickens, a pig rearing enterprise, selling the pork to staff and families and the surplus to Ensor's in Gloucestershire.
For 2009/10 the projects included Turkey rearing for the Christmas market, Quail, Duck, Geese, Broilers and Worms (yes worms!).
These projects are undertaken by 3rd year National Diploma in Agriculture learners to give them skills in working in teams, budget responsibility, leadership and negotiation, customer care and many other aspects of management. They will work with industry, feed companies, slaughterhouses, marketing and advertising and suppliers of stock.
In 2011/12 learners are doing a wide range of projects looking at mastitis control, fertility, ewe performance and lamb performance using Agri Lloyd treatments, cultivation techniques, plant growing, slurry applications and beef finishing systems.
The silage campaigns are run by the learners so we expect the team of learners to complete the grass and maize silage to a high standard, we impress upon them that these two products can make or lose us money over the year, poor quality silage will mean lower milk production or increased feed costs whilst the reverse can reduce feed costs and increase milk production and likewise the same applies for the beef animals.
The students enjoy the team work involved in making silage and the College invests a lot in machinery and equipment, be it hired or capital, to enable the students to drive up to date machinery.
In addition to these projects the 1st year learners will investigate various aspects of the College farm and why things happen the way they do, for example on the dairy herd they will look into fertility, mastitis, lameness; with the sheep they will look after a flock hands on and record results and problems associated with that flock; and on the beef unit they may show the animals, design a breeding programme for a group of animals, look into carcasses, investigating killing out percentages and the meat to bone ratios of various purebreds or crosses. Students monitor all aspects of these enterprises, looking at records and concluding with a way forward or recommendation and giving presentations on these subjects. First year students do practical routine duties on the farm staying with a member of staff for the whole week, they will do 1 session on each unit so 4 sessions minimum per year.
The dairy student will be involved with milking and all aspects related to that routine, some tractor driving with scraping out the feed passages, and once they have a loadall certificate will be allowed to work with feeding and bedding.
The sheep student will be feeding and checking the sheep in the early morning and be involved in handling the sheep or fencing in the afternoon.
The student attending the beef duties could be feeding calves in the morning or feeding housed animals at Home Farm and in the afternoon handling animals - weighing, injecting, fencing, disbudding or any other tasks associated on the units.
A new student post for this year will be involved in the development of a unit for pigs and general tasks.
Practical sessions with lecturers and farm staff range from tasks on tractors, manure hauling and field operations, to all livestock tasks where students get hands on as a group with detailed explanations on the task in hand, why they have to be done, consequences if they are not and the need for accuracy when doing the task. We aim to impress on students the importance of accurate record keeping across the whole of the business, as well as instilling a tidy, thorough way of working in our industry.