First calf born at college since herd lost to FMD

The first calf to be born at Newton Rigg College since the college’s herd was lost to foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 has arrived

Agriculture students Becky Dobson and Robert Carrick with Belle, the new calf at Sewborwens Farm, Newton Rigg College
Agriculture students Becky Dobson and Robert Carrick with Belle, the new calf at Sewborwens Farm, Newton Rigg College

The first calf to be born at Newton Rigg College since the college’s herd was lost to foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 has arrived.

Pedigree Holstein heifer Belle marks the beginning of a new era for the Penrith land-based college, which was taken over by Askham Bryan College two years ago. The news comes as the creation of the £2m state-of-the art commercial dairy takes shape, and student numbers have doubled for the second year in succession.

College chief executive Liz Philip said: “This is an incredibly significant milestone, not just for college, but for the Cumbrian farming community and beyond.

“When we first became involved with Newton Rigg, we said we would restore its agricultural focus. The calf and the new dairy epitomise that promise.”

The calf – Newtonrigg Mars Belle (Belle) - also marks the rebirth of the Newton Rigg herd title. Foundation females have been bought from Anthony Brough’s internationally-renowned Tallent herd, in Cockermouth. They will be based at the college’s Sewborwens Farm, which is close to the campus, enabling students to gain practical hands-on experience.

The first batch have arrived, and are being milked in a temporary facility, with the dairy expected to be finished in the new year. The parlour building is now constructed and the cubicle house is well under way.

Mrs Philip added: “A key element is that students from both campuses will gain practical experience in this flagship commercial system enabling them to take that knowledge back to their own farms or into careers in the industry. The impact of this milestone cannot be underestimated.”

It is anticipated that the new dairy will be a showcase for the farming industry as a practical example of best practice, both in terms of animal management and through its innovative approach to good environmental practice.

It will use the green bedding system to recycle cattle manure as bedding, as well as having solar panels and reusing roof water. The emphasis is on minimising endemic disease and ensuring maximum cattle health and comfort.

The dairy buildings are each 72m by 36m, and one has 164 cubicles for the milking cows, with a central feed passage. The second building houses a collecting yard, a Fullwood Quick-S rapid exit 30 x 30 parlour featuring the latest technology with in-parlour feeders and a fully computerised system with auto ID via pedometers. This relays individual cow information to office computers. The parlour is also fitted with a backflush system.

A link building will join the two dairy buildings to prevent the need for the cows to go outside to be milked.

The parlour building will also house 36 dry cows in cubicles and five boxes for freshly calved cows. It will include a mezzanine viewing gallery for students and visitors.

The computerised system automatically sheds cows on exit from the parlour for AI or other treatment into three holding pens or a herringbone AI race.

An area is also being set aside for foot trimming and there is a large foot bath area and a weigh platform. Slurry will be stored in a 5,000 cubic metre lagoon which will be gravity fed.

Newton Rigg College offers full and part-time courses which include agriculture, horticulture, forestry, countryside management, sport, engineering, equine, child care, game-keeping and conservation and animal management.

A £3m investment plan, announced in November 2012, is currently under way, including the new dairy unit. This summer a 5,000-acre Cumbrian grouse moor was added to the college facilities for gamekeeping and countryside management students.

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