The Skyr’s the limit for Yorkshire Dales farmer

A pioneering Skipton farmer Sam Moorhouse is Britain’s first to make and sell a healthy Icelandic style super-yogurt.

Dairy engineer Thorarinn Sveinsson with Sam Moorhouse

Dairy engineer
Thorarinn Sveinsson with Sam Moorhouse

After completing his National Diploma in Agriculture at Reaseheath and spending time travelling Australia Sam knew he wanted to focus on the future of his family farm.

Sam of Hesper Farm at Bell Busk, initially launched Hesper Farm Skyr at the 2015 Harrogate Fine Food Show after researching ideas on how the family dairy farm could diversify.

Inspired by his research into the Icelandic cow and trips to Iceland to train in the art of making the naturally fat-free skyr, Sam recognised the potential of the product.

After extensive market research to confirm the demand for skyr in the UK, he took the product to Reaseheath Food Centre for initial trials to achieve his perfect formula.

Sam, 22, whose family has farmed locally for generations, is proud to be the first farmer to launch skyr in Britain and the first to bring skyr to the market with British milk. The skyr is produced onsite using milk from the farm’s award winning Airburn herd.

It’s currently available to buy from a host of farm shops and delis across the Yorkshire as well as being stocked by chefs and businesses via Wellocks wholesalers and plans in place for further expansion later this year.

He explains: “I started to read up on skyr when I was looking at ways we might be able to diversify. It really caught my attention because of its massive across Scandinavia and Iceland, and has really taken off in America too.

“It’s a really interesting product with great health benefits and I realised no-one was making it here. We are the first farm to make it onsite with our own specially-trained expertise, using our own British milk.

Baby the cow

Baby the cow

“The cow on our pots and logo epitomises what we are trying to do. It’s a drawing of a cow called Baby that I bought at auction a long time ago. I liked the look of her unusual markings. Her temperament means she always stands out from the crowd too.

She does exactly as she pleases and there is no persuading her otherwise! She’s been with us all these years and really represents our aim in doing something different and making skyr – we don’t follow the herd.”


Skyr (pronounced skeer) is a staple in Iceland and dates back to around the ninth century. It is made by incubating skimmed milk with live active cultures. The water contained in the milk – the whey – is then strained away. Per pot, about four times as much milk as an equivalent pot of traditional plain yogurt is used meaning it’s incredibly thick and creamy. It also means that the skyr contains more protein and calcium than standard yogurt.


Sam realised he would need expert tuition to learn how to make it, so set off for Reykjavik and asked around delis until he was put in touch with dairy engineer Thorarinn Sveinsson, who works for the Icelandic Farmers Union. Thorarinn taught him the labour-intensive process behind making skyr and then visited Hesper Farm once the new purpose-built dairy was finished to make sure the skyr Sam was producing was perfect.

Hesper Farm Syr range

Hesper Farm Skyr range

Thorarinn said: “I had been getting increasing numbers of phone calls from people interested in skyr but I was so impressed with Sam, I knew I wanted to work with him. He has taken the whole  process so seriously and has paid attention to every last detail. In fact he is using a heritage culture which originally dates back to 874,meaning his skyr is genuine Icelandic skyr – the real thing made in the Yorkshire Dales.

“Skyr is part of everyday life in Iceland. I am sure that with its delicious taste and the health benefits you’ll see it becoming part of life here too. I have loved my visit to the Yorkshire Dales. It is a truly beautiful part of England.”

With business going from strength to strength, most recently Sam featured on James Martin’s Home Comforts where he demonstrated his approach to skyr production.

For more information about Hesper Farm Skyr please visit



Reaseheath Food and Farming discussion embraces technology

‘Use technology to drive the agricultural industry forward, embrace science, be innovative and never stop learning’. This was the key advice given to Reaseheath College students at a ‘question time’ discussion looking at careers in agriculture and food production.

The event, sponsored by the Food, Drink & Agricultural Group of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and organised by Reaseheath’s Agricultural Development Academy (RADA) and agricultural department, highlighted the opportunities available in the industry including business start-ups, and the attributes employers are looking for when recruiting.

amie-Leigh Douglas and Emma Hancocks chat to agricultural students

amie-Leigh Douglas and Emma Hancocks chat to agricultural students

The panel, made up of Emma Hancocks (Senior Consultant, Promar International and Genus plc), Jamie-Leigh Douglas (Ruminant Technical Support Manager, AB Vista), Joanne Butterill (Agriculture Relationship Manager, NatWest), Ray Brown, (NFU Cheshire County Chairman) and Barbara Hughes (Cheshire Women in Dairy) took part in a lively Q and A session with undergraduates and Level 3 Diploma students studying agriculture at the Nantwich, Cheshire college.

A recurring theme, supported by all panel members, was that technology is vital for the future of the industry and that careers should be geared towards this constantly evolving science. Degrees were deemed to be important, particularly as they opened the door to graduate schemes in associated industries, but ‘soft’ skills such as reliability, work ethic and enthusiasm were seen as equally essential from an employer’s point of view.

The panel were also unified in their view that partnerships and co-operatives could well sustain the agricultural industry in the future, and that diversification into niche businesses could be a good route to success. Efficiency was key to profitability.

Ray Brown, himself a former Reaseheath agriculture student, advised: “Go for what you enjoy …. but you need to strive to be the best to survive”, while Joanne Butterill  emphasised: “Building rapport with the people who are going to support you is key. Your personality is as important as your CV.” She also pointed out that banks were willing to support farming businesses provided they were presented with a clear business plan and cash flow forecast.

Responding to a question from student Matt Brown as to what the NFU was doing to encourage the next generation of farmers, Ray Brown said efforts were being made to deliver more power into the hands of producers and spoke positively about local food procurement centres which would source food from local businesses and encourage knowledge transfer.

Answering a question as to how ‘Cheshire Women in Dairy’ was encouraging females into the industry, Barbara Hughes described the association’s monthly meetings when best practice and ideas were shared. The panel were in agreement that British society was dictating a shift in perception and that it was now far more acceptable for women to be in the industry.

Rhys Edwards, Henry Stanhope, Lizzy Mercer and Harry Hough talk to Ray Brown and Joanne Butterill

Rhys Edwards, Henry Stanhope, Lizzy Mercer and Harry Hough talk to Ray Brown and Joanne Butterill

Asked how she became a senior consultant, Emma Hancocks said that she had found it very beneficial to work her way up ‘from the bottom’, gaining rounded skills, but that the research which formed part of her degree had proved important to her progression.

This view was supported by Jamie-Leigh Douglas, who said that a background in science and technology could lead to excellent progression in the global animal feeds industry.

In conclusion, Ray Brown emphasised: “Although there is an oversupply at the moment, there are seven billion people in the world and this will increase to nine billion in 20 years. The demand for agriculture produce will increase and the next generation needs to look at producing food which is local, fresh and usable.

“The value of technology such as robots and sophisticated machinery isn’t negative. They help you to do your job better by freeing up time. The future of farming is in the hands of the next generation – and we need our young people to continue learning and then sharing their knowledge, best practice and experiences.”

Header image captionJamie-Leigh Douglas, Ray Brown, Joanne Butterill, and Emma Hancocks are joined by Reaseheath agriculture students Lizzy Mercer, Harry Hough and George Browne


Rising star Robert addresses the Oxford Farming Conference

Ambitious young farmer Robert Yardley addressed delegates and had the opportunity to meet Princess Anne at this year’s Oxford Farming Conference (OFC).

Robert, 29, a current Reaseheath Foundation Degree in Agriculture undergraduate, took to the main stage of the prestigious conference to speak of his experiences with the Young DLG – the youth network of the German Agricultural Society.

Robert, who attended the OFC last year as Reaseheath’s representative, was one of three scholar delegates to be awarded an OFC travel scholarship to attend the Young DLG Conference at Agritechnica, Germany, last November. The exchange is part of a collaboration between the OFC and the Young DLG and aims to give young people involved in British and German agriculture a networking and learning opportunity at leading agricultural events.

Robert Yardley meets Princess Anne at the Oxford Farming Conference

Robert Yardley meets Princess Anne at the Oxford Farming Conference

Robert, who is studying at Reaseheath part-time alongside his job as an arable operator, gave a presentation at the Young DLG conference about farming in the UK and more specifically in Cheshire. He was also able to tour Agritechnica, which is a leading international exhibition of agricultural machinery and equipment, go on farm tours organised by the Young DLG and enjoy interacting with German young farmers.

Describing the experience as ‘a great opportunity which will help further my future career’, Robert told the OFC how he had been able to explore farming practices which met current challenges and had been impressed with the way some businesses were structured to make the most of the marketplace.

He told delegates: “I was delighted to attend Agritechnica and to be representing the OFC at such a globally important event.”

Outside the conference, Robert paid tribute to the support he has received from Reaseheath Agriculture and in particular from course manager Dr Jane Richardson, who put him forward to attend the OFC in 2015. Reaseheath’s delegate for 2016 was Chris Kogel, who is also studying for a Foundation Degree in Agriculture but specialising in Dairy Herd Management.

The three day conference had the theme ‘Bold Agriculture’ and featured Defra Secretary Liz Truss and EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan among other key speakers.

For more info see

Since attending the Young DLG conference, Robert has taking every opportunity to learn more about agriculture in other EU countries and is particularly interested in how businesses manage volatile markets.

He is a member of the NFU’s North West Crops Board and as a result was invited by leading agricultural company Syngenta to travel to the Ukraine in December to share his experience of the UK industry with farmers there. Accompanying NW Crop’s Board chairman Olly Harrison, he spent a week building relationships with farmers who are interested in entering into a new grain market strategy with Syngenta.

Robert made a presentation to around 50 farmers at a finance forum on how the grain market works in the UK. He also toured individual farms meeting owners and managers, which allowed him to better understand the Ukraine perspective of grain marketing. The visit was so successful that Syngenta is likely to repeat it early this year.

Robert re-entered farming in his early 20s after experiencing several other industries. He gained valuable experience as a harvesting contractor in Australia and New Zealand before taking his current job on an arable farm in Widnes and aims to be a farm manager.

Reaseheath celebrates success at the Nantwich Show

Reaseheath College’s visitor friendly exhibition was judged runner-up best professional trade stand at the Nantwich Show after impressing judges with the enthusiasm of its staff, the diversity of its activities and the effort it made to involve show visitors.

The Nantwich college’s stand encouraged families to take part in a diverse range of activities including riding a mechanical horse, operating a digger and meeting a calf.

Judge David Blackhurst, who presented the award, said: “Reaseheath’s stand was the very diverse. Its mix of livestock, machinery and horticulture really caught the eye.

Winning line-up in the cattle marquee: Lecturer Julie Baskerville and agriculture students Jess Pearce, Lydia Diamond, Joe Riley and Siobhan Rutter with Reaseheath Holstein heifers.

Winning line-up in the cattle marquee: Lecturer Julie Baskerville and agriculture students Jess Pearce, Lydia Diamond, Joe Riley and Siobhan Rutter with Reaseheath Holstein heifers.

“But more importantly it was very interactive and offered visitors a lot to do. There was a good range of activities, supported by attentive staff. The Nantwich Show is all about families and it was obvious that visitors were spending a lot of time on the Reaseheath stand.”

Deputy Marketing Manager Faye Thomson-Butt said: “We were delighted at the success of our stand. It’s always a great pleasure to support Nantwich Show, as it contributes so much to the local and farming community.”

Agriculture students and staff, who prepared and showed four heifers from the Reaseheath Holstein herd, were also celebrating after taking first prize for the best cattle line in the cattle marquee along with a 2nd, two 4ths a 6th and 7th in the handler and breed classes.

Header image caption: Judge David Blackhurst and Show Vice President Jerry Purcell hand over the trade stand award to Faye Thomson-Butt and Marketing Administrator Sophie Bell

Travel beckons for ambitious dairy farmers

Two ambitious young dairy farmers are looking forward to global travel thanks to a scholarship run by Reaseheath College and the Cheshire Agricultural Society.

Neil Roberts and Neil Quinlan were presented with John Platt Travel Scholarships, worth £2,000, during the Presidents Lunch at the Cheshire Show.

Neil Roberts, a 30 year-old dairy farmers and herd manager for Townhouse Holsteins at Park Hall Farm, Clotton near Tarporley, will use his scholarship to learn about progressive cow housing systems on a ‘Cow Signals’ course in Holland and will continue his studies at the ‘Alta-U’ course in Wisconsin, USA. He will follow this with a week viewing some of the world’s best dairy facilities in North America.

Neil Quinlan, 35, who helps to manage the dairy herd and youngstock at Polar Hall, Tattenhall, for Neil and Nigel Matthews, plans to visit large and small scale dairy farms in the USA to identify successful strategies in heifer rearing. He will also attend a ‘Calf Signals’ course and visit heifer rearing units in the UK so he can compare techniques.

Both participants will share their finding with fellow farmers, Young Farmers Clubs and agricultural students as part of their award.

Neil Roberts and Neil Quinlan both studied agriculture at Reaseheath College in Nantwich and have continued to expand their knowledge while progressing into responsible roles within the dairy industry.

Neil Roberts has been Herd Manager at Park Hall Farm for 11 years and helps to run the 12,000 kg herd of 500 pedigree Holsteins on a high yield system milking three times daily. The business also has 450 heifer replacements on the farm.

The ‘Cow Signals’ course he will attend has been set up by Joep Dreissen an influential Dutch vet, and will focus on farm set up, building design and other factors which can improve welfare and profit. After the week long course Neil will become a qualified ‘Cow Signals’ master trainer.

He said: “this travel scholarship will help me to maximise cow welfare both at my own farm and on other throughout Cheshire. It will enable me to attend a course where I’ll be encouraged to think ‘outside the box’ when it comes to housing. Often small details can make cows life easier and live longer”.

Neil Quinlan is particularly interested in heifer rearing and plans to identify successful strategies used in the USA, particularly methods of colostrum management and techniques to support calves during their first two weeks of life. He also wants to investigate how weight gains are maximised and growth targets are achieves, from weaning to bulling age.

A ‘Tesco Future Farmer’ last year, Neil runs the youngstock unit with over 100 replacement heifers at Poplar Hall as well as helping to manage the dairy herd of 305 Holstein cows.

He said: “I believe we in the UK could do a great deal more to maximise efficiencies and income within the youngstock industry. I am looking forward to seeing as much as possible and sharing the knowledge that I have gained with other farmers.

“I would like to thank Reaseheath College and the Cheshire Agricultural Society for giving me the opportunity to further my knowledge and interests.”

The John Platt scholarship is in memory of John Platt, a former Chair of Reaseheath Governors and former Chairman, President and Honorary Life Warden of the Cheshire Agricultural Society.

Presenting the awards, Cheshire Show Director Keith Thomas said that both young farmers had been outstanding candidates and had shown the drive, ambition and desire to seek out new information and technology which would benefit the Cheshire farming community.

The John Platt Scholarship is awarded annually and is open to young people from a rural background who live or work in Cheshire. Applications are being taken for next year.

Find out more about The John Platt Travel Scholarship here or email

Caption: Neil Quinlan and Neil Roberts receive their John Platt Travel Scholarships from Keith Thomas and Reaseheath Governor and selection committee member Richard Ratcliffe. 

Reaseheath College welcomes royal visitor at Cheshire Show

Reaseheath College gave Sophie, Countess of Wessex, a right royal welcome when she visited the college’s award winning stand at the Cheshire Show earlier this week (June 23 and 24)

Her Royal Highness, who is Cheshire Show President, spent 20 minutes chatting to staff and students and inspecting the stand’s activities. She particularly admired Reaseheath’s mechanical horse and a pizza oven built by construction students and was keen to find out more about apprenticeships.

Stand organiser Stephanie Owen said: “The Countess seemed to be very knowledgeable and supportive of landbased industries and asked a lot of pertinent questions about our work with rural businesses. She seemed very natural and was obviously enjoying carrying out her duties at the show.”

The Nantwich college’s visitor friendly stand had earlier taken the top award in the education section, with judge Marie Birkenhead paying tribute to the range of activities on offer and the enthusiastic and well informed staff.

Mrs Birkenhead said: “Reaseheath College’s stand was far and away the best exhibit in its section and really met the criteria, which is to educate and inform visitors about the countryside. We were impressed with the attractive display offering activities for all ages, but what was most outstanding was the wonderful welcome which all visitors received when they went on the stand.”

Top crowd puller on the stand was a Caterpillar digger which gave visitors the chance to operate the controls. Apart from riding the mechanical horse, families were able to have a go on a climbing wall and try milking a model cow. Other activities, under the banner ‘Do Something Different’, included a display of the latest horticultural technology and a chance to make floral buttonholes and beaded dragonflies. Animals from the college’s zoo and a scarecrow from this summer’s ‘Superhero’ maize maze were also on display.

Reaseheath agriculture students took part in breed showing and young handler classes in the cattle show ring with heifers and a cow in milk from the Reaseheath Holstein dairy herd. The student team were awarded first place in the ‘tidy lines’ competition.

Deputy Marketing Manager Faye Thomson-Butt said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for us to demonstrate the range of vocational courses we offer. We are very proud of the success of our students and coming to the Cheshire Show each year gives us a great platform to show the public what we can do.”

Caption: Sophie, Countess of Wessex, joins Stephanie Owen and agricultural lecturer Mark Walton on Reaseheath College’s stand at the Cheshire Show.

Reaseheath welcomes Czech dairy students

A few weeks ago Reaseheath became home to a group of 13 dairy students and a tutor from the Czech Republic for two weeks.

The students have been enjoying an Agri-Food study visit funded by the European Erasmus+ VET programme, which aims to promote vocational educational training within the European community.

Our visitors spent three days with our Agriculture team milking cows, lambing and learning some basic theory about UK agriculture. They then joined our Food Department for a week, where they learnt some fundamentals about meat, dairy, and bakery technology. This included a variety of practical sessions to support their learning, including making soft cheeses, butter, lemon curd and croissants – they certainly ate well!


The group with Agriculture Programme Leader Iain Clarke and lecturer Alan Brown.

The group with Agriculture Programme Leader Iain Clarke and lecturer Alan Brown.

The students, ages 18-20, stayed in Platt Hall, our newest student halls of residence. For nine it was their first time in England, so this not only gave them a taste of life on a UK campus but also helped them develop their English language skills and gave them an appreciation of UK culture.

They also enjoyed a visit to Liverpool and its many museums and arts centres. Their final day was particularly memorable, with the solar eclipse ending their stay.

The students are all final year students at VOSP SPSM Kromeriz, a specialist dairy college several hours from Prague. We hope this visit will be the first of many – and plans are already afoot to arrange a return visit for our students in the near future.

Kathy Merrett, Food Programme Leader

Agricultural undergraduates hone their lab skills as they get inside science

First year Foundation Degree in Agriculture students really got stuck in to investigating the internal workings of the heart and lungs as part of their Agricultural Biology module.

Carefully dissecting hearts and lungs from sheep, pigs and cattle they were able to see first-hand the similarities and differences between species. Detailed knowledge of how body systems work in farm animals is key to understanding their management, particularly with respect to maintaining health and welfare while maximising production.

Even the most squeamish in the group admitted they had enjoyed themselves!

For more information on our Agriculture degree courses visit the Higher Education Agriculture pages on our website.

Inspirational alumnus recognised with award

An inspirational mother of four who travelled from Luton to Reaseheath weekly to study for a new career has been recognised for her outstanding commitment.

Damaris Kuria received a £500 Open College Network West Midlands Region (OCNWMR) ‘Access to Higher Education’ Learner Award after being nominated by her tutors.

Gilly Hughes and Damaris Kuria win Access to Higher Education top students' accolade at Reaseheath Further Education Awards Ceremony 2014

Gilly Hughes and Damaris Kuria receive Reaseheath College Access to Higher Education top students’ accolade at Reaseheath Further Education Awards Ceremony 2014

The former finance assistant, who used our Access to Higher Education Diploma to boost her knowledge in farming, is now studying for a BSc Business Management (International Food and Agri-Business) at the Royal Agricultural University. She hopes to return to her native Kenya to run her own farm and to use her expertise in business finance and agriculture to work with African farmers.

Damaris, a mature student who returned to education after redundancy, chose agriculture as she felt it offered a fulfilling career with plenty of opportunities. She made the hard choice to leave her husband and young family at home because she felt studying at Reaseheath would prepare her best for her degree. Despite her family commitments, she achieved exceptionally high marks and an attendance record of nearly 100%.

Said Damaris: “While I was at Reaseheath I learned a lot about 21st century farming and I’m enjoying studying it in greater depth.

“Although adjusting to the college environment, being with new people and living in student accommodation was a challenge at first, I was hugely supported by my partner, the college staff and fellow students. Everyone went out of their way to make me feel at home. My degree studies are going well and I’m enjoying every part of the course.”

Our Access to Higher Education Diploma prepares mature students for degree level study.

Find out more information about studying for a degree at Reaseheath here.  


Travel savvy sheep shearer shares tips on working abroad

Nick Greaves talks to students about his time travelling ing NZ and Australia


Agriculture alumnus Nick Greaves visited the agriculture department last week to share some great tips with our current students on travelling and working abroad.

Adam Henson talks to Nick Greaves during Countryfile filming at Reaseheath in 2013

Adam Henson talks to agriculture student Nick Greaves during Countryfile filming at Reaseheath in 2013

Nick, 20, studied on our Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture. On achieving a Distinction in 2013, he began his shearing travels in Norway and then moved on to New Zealand and travelled in Australia.

Back in the UK for a short break, Nick has most recently been working as a shepherd on a 4500 pedigree sheep farm out in New Zealand.

He returns to New Zealand to begin his latest assignment as a shearer for Woolqual, based in Hawke’s Bay.

Nick Greaves L3 Ex Dip Agriculture visits Reaseheath 1MB

Agriculture alumnus Nick Greaves during his visit back to Reaseheath College



Nick plans to spend the next few years shearing all around the world. He is keen to continue to gain knowledge of different farm enterprises before returning to the UK to take over the running of his family farm in Stafford.

It’s great to see Nick doing so well and encouraging our current students to strive for their career goals.

As our alumni community grows, we are keen to continue to highlight the successes of our former students.

If would like to come back to the College to share your  industry experience with our current students, please contact us on or +44 (0)1270 613219.