Eden, Cumbria, The Lake District – A natural choice for business

Top honours for Newton Rigg in farming competition

31 January 2018

Success for leading land-based College in a prestigious Cumbrian farming competition has sparked ambitions of competing on the national stage.

Newton Rigg College, part of Askham Bryan College, was awarded first place in the Cumbria Grassland Society's silage competition, drawing praise from the judge for the clamp management, the quality of the silage and for the cattle feeding regime.

The competition drew 27 entries from across the county with the first stage involving chemical analysis carried out remotely on each sample, examining dry matter, digestibility, and feed-ability. For Newton Rigg, the analysis was based on first cut silage, taken on 13 May, at the college's Sewborwens Farm and successfully resulted in selection as one of the six finalists.

A visit to Sewborwens by judge Bob Kendal of Alltech then followed with points awarded for the management of the clamp, the quality of the silage preservation, and the feed out system. Use of the company's infra-red camera enabled assessment of hot spots on the clamp face and down the feed barriers to be made, and no signs of warmth were found.

Mr Kendal, Regional Ruminant Sales Manager for Alltech said: “At Newton Rigg, the silage was keeping particularly well even though it was quite high in sugar, because it had been compacted and sealed well. It also had very low volatile fatty acids making it more palatable to cattle and the hands-on feeding regime and active management of the cattle was impressive. Care was taken to ensure that the feed was always accessible which is important. The top three entries were particularly good, but Newton Rigg stood out as the winner.”

Matt Bagley, Head of Farms for Askham Bryan College said: “We're absolutely delighted to have won, particularly as we were up against stiff competition from some very good farmers. The college is a past winner but it was many, many years ago so it's given us a real boost - and we now have our sights set on the national competition organised by the British Grassland Society. This provides a great learning experience for our students, many of whom will work on dairy farms so hands-on knowledge of best practice is incredibly valuable to them both for their studies and for their future careers.”

Matt added: “The sample was taken from the first cut on 13 May, the process was completed over a two day window, it was sheeted and rolled quickly and well. It all goes to our dairy herd of 200 cows plus followers.” All silage land is re-seeded on a five year rotation and includes a fertiliser and herbicide regime.

A presentation evening was held earlier this month when the championship trophy was awarded.