Wednesday, 10 February 2016

That'll do Leif!

It's been a little while since we shared news of Leif's progress, so its about time we showed off some of his skills.

Leif came back to us just before Christmas and I was keen to get him working on our sheep. The wettest winter that I can remember and some very tame sheep didn't get things off to the best of starts with flooded fields and hooligan sheep! I was keen to get him working though and at the start of January, we moved some of our sheep offsite to a new location (more news on that in a few weeks) and I begun working him there.

Working sheepdogs is quite a skill, so I have been learning alongside Leif and you have to take care with this because any 'mistakes' made by myself would likely amplify in Leif and could lead to him developing some bad behaviours. I have been very lucky to have a number of people to call on for help with this and over the last couple of weeks, me and Leif have grown together, I've learnt to handle him with firmness and more confidence. We've had our little setbacks at times, but that's when it's time to do a bit more reading, make a phone call and have a go the next day.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a trip up to Cumbria for the weekend to get some feedback from school farm friend, Hannah Jackson. While I was there, I managed to get some video (sometimes difficult when you're by yourself) so that I could share Leif's progress.

He's now showing a confident outrun and he 'doesn't take any messing' from the sheep.

That'll do Leif. Good lad.

Friday, 5 February 2016


My name is Ethan and am going to be writing about the twelve piglets that were born on our school farm last month. So where do I begin?

We keep three different breeds of pig on our farm, we have three Kune Kune's - these are originally from New Zealand and they are a very friendly, good-natured pig and we keep these for teaching with. We also keep two types rare breed pig, Tamworths (the ginger ones) and Large Blacks. Back in September, we put one of our gilts (the females that haven't had piglets before) in with our Tamworth boar to try and get her pregnant.

Fast forward to the beginning of January and I came down to the farm on the Sunday evening to feed the animals with the other volunteers and everything was all good, there were no signs or no piglets. The next morning, when we were feeding the animals before school we still hadn't seen any piglets but later in the morning, Shannon, our farm apprentice, made the discovery. I was in lessons, so I wasn't the first down there (but I wish I had been) but I saw Mr Fearon walking down the corridor (you can't really miss him!) he was in a rush to his next lesson as he was teaching! When he walked past he had a big grin on his face and he went we have 12! "12 what?"

I rushed straight down to the farm at break so that I could see the piglets! Mr Fearon was right, we had twelve piglets and we think that they had been born late on the Sunday afternoon. They were really active and the sow was a being a really good first-time mum. It's quite unusual for a first litter to be so big, so we weren't that surprised when we had to make the decision to take the three smallest piglets away from the sow to give them a bit of extra milk. It is always a tough decision to take a young animal away from it's mother and Mr Fearon explained to us that we would just take them out to give them a boost with extra milk to make them a bit more competitive with their larger siblings and then reintroduce them with the rest of the piglets.

The piglets drinking their milk

The two 'pet' pigs being kept separately

The news of the piglets spread quite quickly and by the end of the day, we had photographers from the Liverpool Echo and the Wirral Globe coming to see the pigs and take some photo's and video of us. Mr Fearon had to give interviews over the phone to the reporters to tell them about what we do on the farm and the reason that we have pigs - we keep them for meat purposes.

By the end of the week, we had managed to get one of the three pigs back in with the sow and other piglets, but the other two were getting bullied off the milk, so we've kept them separate and bottle feed them during the day, when all of the piglets are weaned, they will be reunited.

Me and one of the piglets!

Friday, 8 January 2016

New Year, New Arrivals

The Winter Break was a welcome one down on the farm, but that's not to say that there wasn't work to be done! It has been an incredibly wet winter so far (we say winter - but it's never really got very cold!) and this has caused a few difficulties at times. During wet weather, our pasture becomes quite waterlogged, so this has caused us to move some of our goats and all of our sheep into the polytunnel a little earlier than we had hoped.

We are going to have pigs born on the farm for the first time this year. We have our Kune Kune's that we keep for teaching - their calm and friendly manner makes them excellent teaching animals but we've had a range of rare breed pigs in recent years that we have bought in as weaners and grown on them on for meat purposes. In September, we made the decision to have a go at crossing one of our Tamworth boars with a Large Black sow - we are expecting the results later on in January. In order to accommodate our new piglets, we have had to section off an area of one of the pens that we'll now use as a farrowing pen. On the 27th, Mr Fearon, Gary Fleet, Jess, Ethan and Shannon came in to get the job done - we think they did a really good job! No doubt you'll hear more about the new pigs in the future.
Hard at work!

Assembling the creep fender

The (almost) finished farrowing pen

Not to be outdone by our fence-building skills, we had a new arrival on the farm just before New Year - this is  José - he's our first Hampshire Down lamb to be born on the farm. We had been expecting twins, but we're guessing the scanner man was having a bad day and he's just a single. Being a single, he's got all of that nutritious milk all to himself so we're expecting good growth rates and we've made the decision not to castrate and keep him intact with a view to selling him after he has been shown in the summer.

José going strong at one week old!

Stay tuned for more exciting developments!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Educate Awards 2015

Our last blog post was all about being shortlisted in three categories for the Educate Awards 2015 - for those that missed the flurry of activity on Twitter over the last few weeks, here's our summary:

(I) lied in my last blog update, because I said that we were only shortlisted in three categories, this wasn't strictly true because some of my students had also nominated me in the Teacher of the Year category. With our four shortlisted spots, we had eight tickets and so brought a selection of staff, volunteers and students (we kept it secret until the last minute from the students, we thought they might appreciate the surprise). As it turned out, I think that we were the only school to take students with us - it was important to us that they were there, not for their nomination, but for the fact that they put in so much hard work and dedication to making the farm a success. I always tell visitors to the farm about how the students run it - from coming in at weekends or on holidays to clean and feed the animals, to bringing me coffee in the morning after I've been in school all night during lambing, to leading our excellent primary school visits.

It isn't often that some of us are seen in suits or dresses, usually opting for overalls, wellies and muddy smudges on our faces - but a change is as good as a rest right? I'm sure you'll agree that the students looked very smart and some of the farmers turned out alright as well!

Scrubbing up well!

We were treated to some fantastic food, excellent entertainment and cracking company during the night - our tablemates were Rainford C of E Primary and we gave them an extra special big cheer when they won the Spirit of Enterprise Award.

Before long, it was time for our awards to come up and we thought that we were in with a good chance of scooping something this year following our hard work with the entries. The first award we were up in was the Career Aspiration Award to which we were runners up to the very worthy Calderstones School in Liverpool.

The next two awards we were up for were the Innovation in Education and Outstanding Teaching of Life Skills for which we got an honourable mention but unfortunately no award. The students were having a great time though, and kept reminding me that all hopes were on me. No pressure then!

So up came the Teacher of the Year award and the shortlisted nominees had a brief summary of why they were nominated - it was getting quite hot in there eh?

'And the runner up is Beth Harris from Archbishop Temple School'

Lots of clapping, well done Beth! I noticed how impressive the floor is in the Anglican Cathedral, how the wax was dripping all over the place from the big candlestands - the drycleaning bill must be pricey.




I don't really remember the next bit that well, just that the red carpet was really long and there was a lot of people looking at me. Then the students were legging it up behind me to join me on stage.

The longest red carpet in the history of life

 And here's the video to prove it:

I was truly humbled by an excellent group of students, I'm glad I could share the moment with them.

A big well done to all the teachers that were nominated and shortlisted, on what was a fantastic night for education in the North West!

See you next year!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Educate Awards 2015 - The Shortlist

We are absolutely delighted to announce that the School Farm has been shortlisted in three categories for the Educate Awards 2015. The categories that we were nominated and shortlisted in were:

  • Innovation in Education
  • Career Aspiration (second year running)
  • Outstanding Teaching of Life Skills
Staff and students put a tremendous amount of effort into our applications this year to demonstrate the effort that goes in to running our farm and the fantastic opportunities that we offer our students. Now that the shortlisting has been complete, we can share our application video's with you:

Career Aspiration:

Innovation in Education:

Outstanding Teaching of Life Skills:

Well done to all the shortlisted schools, we can't wait to hear about your successes and projects at Liverpool Cathedral on 20th November! 

Monday, 5 October 2015

Working on a Weekend?

Anyone who lives with a teacher will tell you that teachers work on weekends. For Mr Fearon, this week, that meant transporting some sheep up to a farm in Cumbria. If you've been keeping up to date with our twitter feed, you'll have noticed that we recently acquired a Hampshire Down ewe and we've named her Hermione. Friend of the farm and all-round supporter of new entrants into farming, Hannah Jackson, had a role to play here after she introduced Mr Fearon to her Hampshires when he took Leif up for his summer holiday. Now that we have entered the world of Hampshire's, we needed to get her tupped as soon as possible so that Hermione can lamb in a similar window to our Zwartbles. Hannah happens to have a rather handsome tup going by the name of Hugo and so the matchmaking service goes.

Hermione the Hampshire

Hermione and Hugo getting to know each other a little better.

Hermione will spend the next few weeks up in Cumbria (hopefully she wont come back baaing with a Cumbrian twang) and then she'll rejoin the flock until she lambs. This wasn't a one-way thing however. Back in March, Hannah visited our farm for the first time, and as a local lass, we think she was impressed with what we have managed to set up here in urban Bebington. Hannah was particularly taken with one of our Zwartble tup lambs, Carlos. And so this weekend Carlos made his way up to his new home where he'll work as a teaser. A teaser is an intact male sheep (so the testicles haven't been removed as is done with the majority of young male lambs) that has a vasectomy - this means that he will produce the hormones that should stimulate Hannah's ewes into synchronising their oestrus cycle without being able to actually inseminate them.

 Hannah welcomes Carlos to the Brookside Farm crew

Carlos quickly makes friends with Gunner


As I am writing this, Hannah has sent this picture - Hugo has done his job!

Hugo has been a busy boy!

You can follow Hannah on twitter: @redshepherdess

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Winston meets the girls!

Following our sponging efforts a fortnight ago, today it was time for the students to remove the sponges and prepare our tup, Winston, for his run with the ladies. Holly and Jake will show you what we got up to!

We think that you'll agree that they both did a good job removing the sponges and getting Winston raddled up ready to mate with the ewes.