[A] state of the art Sheep Husbandry Centre which will help safeguard the future of the country’s hill farming industry was officially opened by Cumbria-based Newton Rigg College, part of Askham Bryan College, yesterday (Tuesday 13 June, 2017).
Endorsed by the agricultural industry and business leaders, the Centre provides a national focus for student learning and is a showcase for the latest technology. Askham Bryan College is a specialist in land-based education, and the Centre is situated at its hill farm near Penrith, Cumbria.
The multi functional initiative has the backing of regional and national organisations including Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, the National Sheep Association and the National Farmers Union.
Catherine Dixon, Chief Executive of Askham Bryan College said: “This is a landmark occasion both for the college and for hill farming across the country. The Centre incorporates the latest technology with the needs of a traditional industry. Our students will be equipped to become the industry leaders and work force of tomorrow. Our vision to create a national centre of excellence will enable the College and its students to contribute to local communities and the economy as well as safeguarding the future of upland farming.”
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 measures 36m x 25m x 2.95m and lends itself to improved animal welfare plus greater efficiency of stock management.
Technology includes the use of hand held scanners which record animal data on or off site – from weight to animal health to ear tag numbers. This can all be analysed and then used to inform the college’s stocking regime.
Commenting on the initiative, Graham Hayward, Director of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership said: “Cumbria LEP’s priorities include targeting investment to nurture a vibrant rural economy and supporting local skills development. The new Sheep Husbandry Centre is a fantastic resource for the county. It will be a national showcase for the best hill farming practices, reinforcing Cumbria’s reputation for excellence in uplands agriculture.”
Guests from across the business and farming industry as well as students and staff watched as Wes Johnson, former Principal of Newton Rigg College unveiled the commemorative plaque. Tours of the new centre then followed.