[A] huge vote of confidence has been given to one of the UK’s most challenging farming sectors by a Cumbrian college.
Newton Rigg College, Penrith has launched a state of the art sheep husbandry training centre to provide the best and most modern facilities to equip the next generation of agriculturalists with the expertise and knowledge needed to help safeguard the future of this important sector.
The college is part of Askham Bryan College which has centres across the North of England and specialises in land-based courses, ranging from agriculture to countryside management, and from equine to horticulture.
Catherine Dixon, Chief Executive, said: “We are proud to use the latest technology in a traditional and local industry and develop a sheep husbandry centre which will support our students at Newton Rigg and across Askham Bryan College. The new skills they learn will enable them to contribute to their communities and to their local economies, safeguarding this important industry for future generations.”
The showcase centre is based at Low Beckside Farm, Mungrisdale which is within some of the country’s most difficult uplands.
Matt Bagley, Head of Agriculture said: “Our vision was to create a national centre of excellence to help future proof hill farming. Young people have a passion and a desire to learn more about upland farming; we wanted a building where we can transfer knowledge to the industry and so encourage young people back to upland farming. It’s a wonderful vocation, part of the fabric of the UK, and we can’t lose it.”
Costing £430,000, the centre is multi-functional and versatile with removable animal penning areas which can be transformed from a lambing centre, to a vast storage space to a livestock handling area. The light and airy building is conducive to student learning, and lends itself to improved animal welfare plus greater efficiency of stock management.
“What we have here is unique,” said Mr Bagley. “We are the only college to own an upland farm and are unique in the standard of the facilities we now have.”
The latest technology has been included for example hand held scanners to record data from each animal – from weight to animal health to ear tag numbers, all of which can be analysed and used to inform the college’s future stocking regime. The centre, which measures 36m x 25m x 2.95m also has a rainwater collecting facility.
It was constructed by Robinson’s Scotland of Lockerbie and has been supported by the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership as well as regional organisations such as the Cumbria Farmer Network, the Lake District National Park, the NFU (National Farmers Union) and YFC. (Young Farmers Clubs)
Robinsons’ Managing Director, Ryan Brown: “Working with the College to design and build a facility that would teach the next generation of farmers has been a great opportunity for us. The project was continually evolving and we were able to design a unique solution to meet the college needs to ensure that we could maximise the operational efficiency of the building and surrounding works.”
“Our team has thrived on the challenge of creating a building that was in keeping with the area of natural beauty and working to maximise the operational efficiency of the building. We are delighted that the building is now complete and it is great to see the students using the facility to its full potential.”
Newton Rigg was taken over by Askham Bryan College in 2011 and since then has seen a huge increase in the number of students studying agriculture, from less than 20 six years ago, to today’s figure of 300.
The building will be officially opened on Friday 13 June.