Methane gas from cows makes for illuminating interview

The way Reaseheath converts the slurry from our dairy cows into a renewable energy source made for an illuminating interview on BBC Radio Stoke this week.

Farm Manager Mark Yearsley described the workings of our two Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants, which produce biogas from slurry. By producing our own energy and using it to power some of our campus buildings, we have been able to cut our electricity consumption by 15%.

Our two plants are demonstration units and widely used to promote on- farm AD to farming groups, who regularly tour the facility.

Mark has recently returned  from a scholarship to America, during which he studied the AD systems over there.

His chat with reporter John Acres followed an international story about an explosion in a building housing cattle in Germany, allegedly caused by the build up of methane gas produced by the animals.

Although sceptical about the amount of methane allegedly produced by the animals, Mark talked about the digestive systems of cattle and how the end product could be used sustainably. The interview was observed by an attentive group of cows from our elite herd, who obligingly provided some sound effects.

Two interviews – one about our cows and one about our AD plants – were broadcast on Monday February 3rd on Perry Spiller’s popular mid morning show.

BBC Radio Stoke regularly consult us for our expertise on rural subjects such as food, farming and horticulture.

Two weeks ago Horticulture Unit manager Neil Bebbington gave a very good live interview from our weather station describing the extreme weather patterns being recorded on the daily data. During the same week, Sam Walton was called upon to answer the bizarre question as to whether a cow could get up if a wall was built in front of it while it was lying down. (This was a radio quiz question and the answer is ‘No’, because cows need to lunge forward when they are getting up!)

Reaseheath students go orange for orangutans

Reaseheath College animal management students went orange to help save one of the world’s most endangered apes.

The students dressed in orange and asked others to do the same during fund raising activities for the ‘Go Orange for Orangutans’ campaign. Their efforts raised over £300 for the campaign, which was run by Chester Zoo as part of its “Act for Wildlife” initiative to raise money for conservation projects worldwide.

Two groups of students took part. Seventeen Level 2 Diploma in Animal Care ‘Group B’ students raised £227 after being sponsored by family and friends to dress up in orange while members of Reaseheath’s Conservation Society raised £76 by holding a social event in the student bar. This included the free services of DJ Sam Walton, courtesy of Moo Media UK. As well as raising funds, the students  also took the opportunity to talk about the plight faced by orangutans due to habitat loss.

The Level 2 Diploma students presented their cheque to Penny Rudd, Chester Zoo’s Registrar and Internships Co-ordinator, when she visited the campus last week. The Conservation Society members handed over their donation during a recent trip to the zoo.

Level 2 animal care group b students l-r Penny Rudd Chester Zoo students ashleigh goldstraw and robbie kelly

Chester Zoo’s Penny Rudd receives the donation from Level 2 Diploma in Animal Care students Ashleigh Goldstraw and Robbie Kelly.

Chester Zoo’s appeal has raised over £13,000 to be used to provide specialist camera traps in Borneo, the last stronghold of the wild orangutan.

Penny Rudd, who is a former Reaseheath governor and has strong links with the animal management department, said: “It has been wonderful to meet students who are so keen to become involved in a real conservation project.

“Orangutans face a very uncertain future owing to habitat destruction, mainly caused by the widescale production of unsustainably farmed palm oil. Along with Reaseheath, Chester Zoo aims to actively encourage and educate young people who will have the power to influence the future. In this case we need to encourage shoppers to buy only the products which contain responsibly sourced palm oil (look for the RSPO signs on packaging!) This could have a major impact in saving what little habitat is left for the orangutans.”

Level 2 Diploma in Animal Care Course Manager Holly Berry said: “Our students were particularly keen to help as they had learned about the plight of wild orang-utans during their lectures. Both the students and I were very proud to have raised money for such a worthy cause”

For further details see and for more details about Reaseheath’s animal management courses see

Videos kick off careers in racing

Videos promoting the diverse and exciting careers in the horse racing industry have been released by The Cheshire Racing Hub.

The Racing Hub was launched last year with the aim of highlighting to young people the racing careers available to them in Cheshire. Reaseheath College is an education partner, along with the University of Chester and the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Liverpool. The initiative is funded by the British Horse Racing Authority and Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The six videos focus on inspiring young people who are already working in the industry and turn the spotlight on careers in equine veterinary medicine, training, breeding and sales, work riding, barn management and racecourse personnel.  An introductory video features recently retired footballer Michael Owen, who is a local racehorse owner and racing enthusiast.

The videos can be viewed on Cheshire Racing Hub’s YouTube channel and official website.  They were made by Equine Productions, which produces bespoke videos for the racing and equestrian industries.

A successful preview of the videos was held at Bishop Heber High School, Malpas, earlier this month, accompanied by a talk by local point-to-point trainer Oliver Greenall, who described his role and his racing experiences.

Over 10 students expressed an interest in finding out more about careers in racing and a behind-the-scenes taster day for these students will be scheduled to give them a real insight into the industry.

With strong initial interest following this pilot, the Racing Hub is now looking at rolling out a similar programme across selected schools in Cheshire.

Racing Hub Chair Kay Kent said: “We are delighted to have produced some really informative and lively videos which relate and talk to young people about careers in racing and will live long into the future through Careers in Racing.  We look forward to taking Bishop Heber students on their next steps to finding out more about the exciting careers in Cheshire.”

Reaseheath Engineering Department Receives New Equipment

The Engineering department has recently received a host of new machinery, which will serve to support current and future learners on their educational journey.

New machinery includes: harvesting and processing machinery, new square balers and tractors valued at over £300,000. This machinery has been kindly loaned to the college by manufacturers and local dealers.

Students engaged in a range practical sessions utilising the new equipment, working with Graeme Smith in the workshop. One student Ben Hobster commented on the sessions: “this helped me to further understand the balers, and brought to life the diagrams and hand-outs we had received in class regarding these machines”.

He went on to mention: “one of the most interesting parts was seeing how this machinery has evolved over the years. It was great to look at the crop flow, carry out adjustments and checks, ensuring machines would run perfectly”.

Students hope to see more equipment like this utilised in future, to help continue to build their practical knowledge and experience of  working with such equipment. This will endeavour to further help students strive to reach their potential in their chosen engineering careers.


Ben Hobster

Engineering Student

Students get first hand ‘zoo practices’ experience when introducing porcupines

Animal Management’s  two groups of African Crested Porcupines have finally met!

With the assistance from FDSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare and FDSc Zoo Management second year students, the porcupines went through a lengthy eight week introduction process. Student supported with; helping to train the animals to load into a crate, moving the females into an enclosure next to the males and working week by week to acclimatise both sexes to each other. This gave students invaluable hands-on experience of the introduction process. The culmination of the introduction process occurred on Monday 25th November, when the porcupines finally met face to face.

The college has housed two male porcupines at the animal centre for the past seven years, since they arrived from West Midlands Safari Park. Whilst the two female porcupines have been at the college three years, brought from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust; Jersey Zoo. The two sexes have been kept separate to allow the females to mature before a possible breeding programme can take place.

As well as gaining valuable experience of a task that happens routinely in zoo collections, the students also collected data during the whole process working towards a research task. When the data has been collated it can hopefully be published and used in other zoo collections to assist with captive porcupine husbandry.

Being a social species, the porcupines have now formed a small group. All four can be seen feeding, resting, and sleeping under their heat lamp together. However, being a large, quilled rodent the students had to observe all health and safety requirements when working with a potentially dangerous animal.

The introduction process has gone very well. The porcupines have created a small social group and two groups of students have gained some valuable practical experience and work skills.

Lisa Boardman

Porcupine Keeper

Skype conferencing for RHES

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) were benefited from a guest speaker in virtual form. Colin Stevenson spoke to the society via Skype about his time as director at Madras Crocodile Bank. Now at Crocodiles of the World back in the UK he spoke about the problems faced in India and the comparative difficulties to running a Zoo in the UK.

Colin’s talk included aspects of health and safety, public perception and active conservation. Colin also discussed with the group the best avenues to follow in order to reach their herpetological career aspirations. The talk was very well received and although not in the room we still managed a group photo with Colin and RHES.

We would like to express our thanks to Colin, Nathan RHES Co Chair for organising the talk, all members that attended and to all teaching staff that enabled members to attend during lesson time. This is the beginning of many national and international guest speakers for RHES. Next up will be hearing from a representative of Sea Turtle Oversight Protection in Florida.

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society


RHES Raising Funds for their Annual Charity

This year RHES are raising vital funds for their nominated charity Crocodiles of the World. The charity is dedicated to the conservation and education of the world’s crocodiles.

RHES bake sale

RHES members visited Crocodiles of the World last year to learn about the facility and the work carried out there. The group discovered Crocodiles of the World are moving to a more convenient location with better facilities, which will enable them to continue their work and do so much more. RHES are aiming to raise money to assist with this project through fundraising efforts beginning with a bake sale. Members made cakes and sold them in the canteen and carried out a delivery service to offices of staff in need of a sugar rush.

RHES raised a brilliant £63.00

for Crocodiles of the World and they are hoping to continue to fundraise throughout the academic year.


RHES undertake Habitat Restoration for Rare Dragonfly

The first Tuesday of the month is going to be a busy one for RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society). The group are to undergo a native species project for a reptile, amphibian or invertebrate. Last year they contributed to the Fen Raft Spider Rear and Release Program and also took to the North Wales Coast to survey one of Britain’s rarest toads, the Natterjack Toad.

RHES Clearing scrubland at the new site being created for the White Face Darter

RHES Clearing scrubland at the new site being created for the White Face Darter

This year they will be revisiting the Natterjacks, assisting some Sand Lizards and restoring habitat and relocating one of Britain’s rare dragonflies, The White Face Darter Leucorrhinia dubia. While the weather is not optimum, the group will be restoring habitat in Delamere Forest assisting the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. This includes clearing scrub land and making log piles following the creating of a large water body. Once the weather improves the group will be able to assist with the translocation of the White Face Darter nymphs from successful sites to newly created sites.

An RHES member commented on the project; “Delamere Forest is right on our door step, so it’s great that we can get out there and help conserve its many habitats and the species within it.”

Once weather improves RHES will also be assisting with the surveying of a very rare spider in Delamere and the necessary framework for the species conservation. We would like to thank Katie Piercy (Wildlife Trust Delamere Mossland Officer), all members that attended and Joe Chattel for driving.

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society

RHES Help unwanted Reptiles and Raptors

This year RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society) have been raising money for North Wales Reptile and Raptor Sanctuary (NWRR). So far they have raised a whopping £437.08 through three events. RHES were present at Lambing weekend, Open Day and gained sponsorship through their successful leap of faith. Events included cake and sweet sales, Ozzy the owl meets and greets, reptile and invertebrate talks and guess the number of gummy snakes in a tub.

One of RHES aims is to raise money for a related charity. North Wales Reptile and Raptor Sanctuary (NWRR) specialise in Rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming in reptiles (pet and wild) the registered charity that receives no funding except for generous donations made by the public. RHES visited NWRR to donate the raised funds and also to help out for the day. NWRR has around 60 animals and the husbandry is a labour intensive job. On the day RHES helped out with jobs like cleaning the turtle pond, clean the tortoises and feed the raptors.

NWRR were extremely grateful for the support from RHES and were impressed tremendously by their attitudes towards pet ownership. In a letter Jane (NWRR Founder) said “I just wanted to write and say thank you for coming to see us yesterday we had a wonderful day and were very pleased you came to see us. Thank you for all the hard work you did and the raised funds was a wonderful surprise”.

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society

Reaseheath food students impress with tasty meals for children

Food technology students from Reaseheath College in Nantwich, Cheshire, have impressed industry experts by developing a range of tasty and healthy children’s meals for the supermarket shelf.

Eleven students in the final year of their Foundation Degree in Food Industry with Management were tasked with developing chilled ready meals suitable for a new Tesco range.

The students had to follow a complex brief following strict retail industry standards which included carrying out research into nutrition, portion sizes, costing and package design. They then prepared their dish and delivered a product presentation before a panel of food industry experts.

The judging panel was headed by Tesco Product Development Manager Stephanie Bacon and included new product development specialists from the Greencore Group, which produces and supplies ready meals for the retailer.

Dishes which particularly caught the eye of the judges included a chicken dinner made by Dina Silva, a sausage and baked bean casserole produced by Alex Mangnall and a sweet chicken curry from Nazreen Dwada.

Said Stephanie Bacon: “It has been very interesting to touch base with the young talent coming into the industry.  Tesco has always been keen to give something back by helping to guide and advise the next generation of food technologists. We are also constantly developing our own food ranges and are particularly interested in innovative dishes for children which are high in nutrition but low in the less desirable ingredients such as fat and salt.

“We were very impressed by the thought and effort which the students had put into this project. The overall standard of the products was excellent and every student brought a meal into the room which was healthy and flavourful.”

The students researched and prepared their products in the industry standard food halls which are part of Reaseheath’s £7 million Food Centre, one of the best equipped food processing teaching and practical facilities in Europe.

The project was organised by Lecturer in New Product Design Jayne Storer, working in conjunction with Tesco and Greencore. She explained: “This was a true test of the students’ initiative because it was the first time they had worked to a live brief. It was extremely industry focused and realistic, replicating exactly what they will need to do in their future careers.”

Said Alex Mangnall, 19: “This was a really interesting project which gave us a real life experience of the food industry and will be really useful for our CVs.”