New dairy for students offers hope for the future

Next generation farmers in Yorkshire are in line to reap the benefits of a new multi-million pound dairy which has officially opened in the North of England.

Students studying farming disciplines at Askham Bryan College in York will be among those who will use the new £2.4m facility in Cumbria as an integral part of their degree, diploma and apprenticeship studies.

The completion of the ‘state of the art’ unit has been welcomed as an encouraging development by a dairy industry dogged by a long-term decline in producer numbers and it was officially opened at Askham Bryan’s Newton Rigg College campus near Penrith by Lord Donald Curry of Kirkharle yesterday. The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome also attended to bless the dairy herd.

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The facility comprises of a building to house cattle and another with a 30:30 Fullwood Quick S parlour, a dry cow unit, handling facility and fresh cow housing pens. A viewing platform gives guests, such as prospective students, a useful vantage point.

Liz Philip, the College’s chief executive said: “Young people study with us from across the north of England and agriculture is very much the tap root of the education we provide. Our focus is on providing work ready young people and having one of the most technically advanced dairy systems in the country will enhance their learning and career opportunities. The number of students studying agriculture with us has doubled in the last three years which speaks volumes for the high regard in which we are held.”

York-based Askham Bryan took over the running of Newton Rigg in August 2011 and the dairy is part of an investment programme to “put agriculture back at its heart”. This latest development has been part-funded by the Rural Development Programme for England through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Farming Minister, George Eustice, praised the project.

“Young farmers are the lifeblood of the industry and the rural economy, which is why we’re supporting them through investing in educational facilities across the country. Our Rural Development Programme has created or safeguarded more than 2,000 jobs in the north-west, which will help ensure long-term economic growth in the region’s farming, food and tourism sectors.”

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David Shaw, chairman of the regional dairy board for the National Farmers’ Union in the North East, applauded Askham Bryan for investing in the future of the dairy industry. DairyCo figures for England and Wales tell of a long-term decline in the number of producers. At the beginning of March there were 10,382 producers, down by 31 in a month and a fall of 279 in a year.

Mr Shaw, 65, who farms at Elvington near York, said: “It’s absolutely essential that this kind of investment is made because a lot of people like me are getting onto retiring age and are not as fit and can’t do it anymore - that’s why we have the decline. We need another generation to follow us so what the college is doing to encourage young people into the industry is really good.”

Animal centre to open next

As part of the investment programme at Askham Bryan College, a new animal management centre is being constructed at its campus near York, costing £6m.

Building work is now underway to replace the existing centre at the site and it is due to be completed sometime in the autumn.

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The development of the new facility forms the first phase of a long-term £34m project which includes plans for a new equine centre with a polo field, teaching areas, new student accommodation, a teaching block and an engineering workshop. The residential accommodation will double the number of students living on site to 600.