A state-of-the-art dairy at Newton Rigg College, Penrith, – costing £2.4m – will be officially opened by a leading figure in the farming world.
Lord Curry of Kirkharle will do the honours on Friday, March 21, at the college’s Sewborwens Farm where the unit is based.
Around 400 invited guests are expected to attend, including representatives from the Cumbrian farming and rural community as well as national figures, business representatives, college governors, staff and students.
Liz Philip, principal of Askham Bryan College in York, which took over the running of Newton Rigg in August 2011, said: “The significance of the opening of our new dairy unit cannot be under estimated, both on a national and regional scale.
“We promised to put agriculture back at the heart of Newton Rigg and this flagship dairy is tangible proof of that commitment.
“Our vision is that it will become a centre for dairy excellence, providing a national focus for learning and best practice.
“Our students will gain a unique insight into the industry, gaining sound business management skills as well as hands-on experience working in the most modern dairy in the UK.
“We have already seen the number of students studying agriculture more than double which bodes well for the future of farming.”
The unit comprises two buildings, one to house the cows, and the other for the 30:30 Fullwood Quick S parlour. A dry cow unit, handling facility and fresh cow housing pens complete the new site.
Maximum animal health and welfare and efficiency of operation lie at the heart of the design, which includes numerous environmental features.
In terms of water management, the college has worked with the Eden Rivers Trust to ensure that successful commercial farming operates hand in hand with sound environmental practice.
The event is particularly poignant as in 2001, in common with many farms in the North West, Newton Rigg lost its herd to foot-andd-mouth disease.
It was not replaced until autumn last year when the Cockermouth-based Tallent Holstein herd was purchased from Anthony Brough, marking the rebirth of the college herd.
The new dairy buildings are each 72m x 36m and one has 164 cubicles for the milking cows, with a central feed passage.
A link building joins the two to prevent the need for the cows to go outside to be milked in the second building. The second building houses a collecting yard and the Fullwood Quick-S rapid exit 30 x 30 parlour featuring the latest technology with in-parlour feeders and fully computerised system with auto ID via pedometers.
This relays individual cow information to the computers in two offices in the building. The parlour is also fitted with a backflush system.
The parlour building houses 36 dry cows in cubicles and five boxes for freshly calved cows. It includes 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 has also being set aside for foot trimming and there is a large foot bath area and a weigh platform.
The buildings have two metre concrete walls topped by three metre curtains for ventilation. They are fitted with adaptable GEA M2M Kingshay cubicles which are deep bedded.
Slurry is stored in a 5,000 cubic metre lagoon which is gravity fed, and rainwater is collected from the roofs for washing down the collecting yard.
The roof also has solar panels to facilitate cooling the milk and heating the washing water. It will also help reduce the unit’s overall running costs.
A green bedding system is incorporated which recycles lignin to use for cow bedding, a new and emerging technology in the dairy industry.
Lord Curry is a familiar figure in the British farming sector.
He chaired the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food reporting to government in January 2002 and was responsible for overseeing the government’s Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food until March 2009.