Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture (EDA) students at Greenmount Campus, CAFRE, recently took a break from their studies to visit farms and businesses in Scotland, writes Irene Downey, senior lecturer, CAFRE.
The visits linked to modules they are currently studying and focused on business management and planning, livestock husbandry and environmental management.
The first visit was to Gary Mitchell, Stranraer who manages a 700 cow dairy herd with cows milked through a 39 point rotary parlour three times per day.
Gary highlighted to students the importance of cost control and budgeting as well as taking advantages of opportunities as they arise.
The suckler cow unit of Richard Barbour at Drumfries was next to visit. This large scale unit was very impressive and Richard explained his breeding policy and stock management to ensure that each animal is producing a margin. On a separate unit Friesian/Holstein bull calves are purchased and reared with feed efficiency a key driver.
The following morning students visited the Stirling bull sales and witnessed the sale of the supreme and senior champion Charolais bull Balthayock Minstrel which made 46,000 guineas.
Probably the most interesting visit of the tour was that of Craig and Katreen Malone at Loughgelly who obtained a 10 year tenancy from the Scottish Forestry Commission as a ‘starter’ farm. They have gradually replaced the arable farm with grass and buy in year-old Limousin cross heifers with the aim of breeding them and selling at two plus year old with calves at foot. They also manage a 500 Blackfaced ewe flock. Students were impressed by their enthusiasm and willingness to develop the business and build up capital knowing that they would have to move onto another tenancy farm after the 10 year period.
Glenrath Farms Ltd was the next visit which as well as considerable beef and sheep enterprises, is one of the largest free range egg producers in Europe and students were given a tour of the state of the art egg packing plant.
The final visit was to Roadhead Farm Feeds which combines a 750 cow dairy herd with a growing farm feeds business.
This group of students are currently finishing the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture which is a three year full time course.
The first year combines classroom based study with farm skills and practical work, followed by a second year on farm placement to further develop skills. The final year is back at Greenmount to complete further modules and develop enterprise management. Students who successfully complete the course obtain an award equivalent to A levels and can therefore progress onto Higher Education or seek employment in the industry.
For further details and application please see the CAFRE website www.cafre.ac.uk or come along to the Greenmount Campus Open Day on Wednesday 18 April from 3-8pm.