On Thursday students on NS4202 Cells to Organisms visited Cotswold Farm Park. The park is run by Adam Henson, probably best known for his work on BBC’s Countryfile, and is the home of Rare Breeds Conservation. The Rare Breed Survival Trust was formed in 1973 by Adam’s father, Joe; it is now a thriving organisation with over 10,000 members and has HRH The Prince of Wales as its Patron. The park hosts many rare breeds of sheep, pigs, cattle, goats and horses.
We were greeted by the farm manager and given a talk by a member of the farm lecturing team who gave us a talk on how they manage the sheep on the farm and the importance of maintaining adequate nutrition, particularly during pregnancy. He then took us through the processes of managing sheep through the reproductive cycle and the staff roles in overseeing this. The farm is both a commercial production unit and also a public attraction and it was very interesting to hear how they are able to manage their flocks to support both roles.
From here the students were free to explore the farm and its many attractions. This included the Touch Barn where students were able to get up close and personal to many of the farms little inhabitants including rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, lambs and piglets. It also gave them an opportunity to handle the farms new-born ducklings and chicks.
Later, on returning to the lambing sheds we were able to witness the birth of one of the farms newest additions when one of the flock gave birth to a single lamb in front of the assembled audience. It was interesting to see the ewe expressing the characteristic signs that she was about to lamb, including – pawing the ground, isolating herself from the flock, “star-gazing” and licking her lips. Parturition lasted about 40 minutes and as the birth was of a single lamb, meaning it was quite large in size, the ewe was struggling to deliver it and needed the help of Livestock Manager, who with his staff oversee all the delivery’s onsite.
It was also amazing to see how quiet and calm the ewe stayed during this whole process. There was certainly more noise coming from the watching students who seemed to enjoy the opportunity to watch this live. A great end to a lovely day out.
Dr. Rik Rolfe, Senior Lecturer in Biosciences