Monday, September 16, 2019

Farmer Barnes Dairy: Leicestershire dairy farmer builds ‘cow classroom’

September 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Profiles

Jane Barnes has found her niche in life working as a public speaker – giving presentations about her life living and working on the family dairy farm for over 18 years.

People would often ask to come and visit the farm to “see how a cow is milked, she says. And that became easier after a change in farm management – from Jane and husband Mark to son Harry – saw the family build a new dairy parlour.

Built outside the village of Somerby, near Melton Mowbray, the new parlour saw Harry, 22, install a completely new milking system for the herd – and enabled Jane to pursue a new venture educating people about commercial dairying.

“When we decided to build the new parlour, I had the backing of my family to build a Cow Classroom, with viewing windows and a viewing gallery above,” she says.

“I knew there’d be a market for the general public to see the cows and learn directly for themselves how we produce the right sort of milk for Stilton cheese production.”

Jane says she is keen to share the dairy farm with people who wish to learn – and for it to be an education centre to showcase UK dairying as a modern, exciting and vibrant industry. Since the new parlour opened, she has hosted numerous farm talks, tours and school visits.

Commercial venture

“I didn’t do a great deal of research before setting up the Cow Classroom, as I already had visitors come to the old farm in the village most summers. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t anyone else doing the sort of tours I’m offering in the East Midlands. I’m pretty unique.

“We want to remain a proper commercial dairy farm, where we allow visitors to come and see our farm without disturbing the farm’s routine.”

The family farms 161ha (400 acres) of grassland, milking 250 cows. Half the herd is spring calving and the other half autumn calving – using a New Zealand grazing system set up by Mark Barnes eight years ago.

Building a brand new dairy unit led the family to New Zealand’s Waikato Milking Systems. They wanted to set up a single-person milking operation for Harry. It had to be efficient in terms of time, labour and running costs – but also it had to be a simple, reliable system.

Stimulating visits

“Harry had milked in a couple of dairies during his college years, and he replicated the 24/48 Waikato Milking Systems Supa 4 Herringbone in our new set up,” says Jane.

The family traditionally bred Pedigree Ayrshires. But Harry has since purchased 70 Friesian cross-bred heifers which have now entered the milking herd.

“We moved the cows into the new set up on October 31, 2018 and they took to the new parlour like ducks to water. The whole milking process has been easy and efficient both in time, labour and running costs.”

Jane believes more farms should be looking at how they can provide a stimulating outdoor classroom where children and young people can learn about agriculture.

“Outdoor classrooms can also provide the context for delivery of wider subjects such as science and geography, through to mathematics and history, while giving children the inspiration for art and literature.”

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