Wise shepherd achieves her farming dream

Agriculture graduate Caroline Jellicoe took the plunge and moved to Cumbria to manage her own own sheep farm having completed her degree at Reaseheath.

Caroline was inspired back to education after visiting the Nantwich campus with her children during lambing season back in 2010.

Coming from a background in zoo keeping, Caroline has worked with a range of exotic animals in her career so far, but was keen to expand her knowledge of the farming industry.

Caroline prepared for her degree by completing an Access to Higher Education Diploma at Reaseheath, where she found her passion for sheep farming.

During the second year of her degree, Caroline bought an acre of land along with six zwartbles shearling pedigree sheep and a ram called Mr Gibbs. The 27th February 2014 saw the ewes give birth to Caroline’s first flock of lambs.

Toba, Caroline's youngest and most enthusiastic farm hand

Toba, Caroline’s youngest and most enthusiastic farm hand

She commented, “It was a long road to get to the of point of having my own flock of sheep – but it was all worth it.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the support of the Farm Manager Mark Yearsley and other staff, along with the opportunity to gain experience working on the College farm during my time at Reaseheath. This all helped me on my way to achieve my dream of owning my own sheep flock.”

On looking to the future Caroline said, “I am always looking for more land. I only wanted a few sheep at first, but since I visited a friend’s farm in Yorkshire and falling in love with it, I decided I would dream BIG – I am aiming for 1,000 sheep now. In one year I have gone from no sheep to 40 and I intend to grow and grow.”

With her experience working with exotic animals, Caroline is also the proud owner of an eagle owl, barn owl, tortoise, bearded dragons and goats. As a diversification programme to her flock business, she has set up a new enterprise ‘The Three Wise Shepherds’, a programme of  educational talks with her variety of animals. She has also begun to take the animals to children’s parties for petting along with ‘meet and greet’ experiences for children and adults of all ages.

Caroline has graduated from Reaseheath in 2014 with a Distinction in her Foundation Degree and celebrated her success along with fellow classmates at our graduation ceremony at St Mary’s Church in Nantwich. In December 2014 Caroline moved to a fell farm in Cumbria, where she now manages 200 herdwick ewes plus her own zwartbles flock.

If you would like to find out more about Caroline and her growing business ‘The Three Wise Shepherds’, follow her twitter handle @sheepstudent.  

Reaseheath graduation opens doors to careers success

Graduates from Reaseheath College received degrees designed to boost their careers at a ceremony in the centre of Nantwich.

Dressed in gowns and mortar boards, almost 150 graduates spilled out of St Mary’s Church to celebrate with Britain’s best known Paralympic athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson OBE, who was guest speaker.

The ceremony marked the achievement of students who had completed degrees in agricultural science, equine science, food technology, garden and landscape design, engineering, countryside management, adventure sports management and rural events management, all delivered in partnership with Harper Adams University.

Animal management and science students on degree programmes validated by the University of Chester (UoM) graduated alongside other UoM students at Chester Catherdral  in November.

Describing the Nantwich ceremony as one of the highlight of the academic year, Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David emphasised that the graduates would see a massive return on their financial and emotional investment. An independent analysis had shown that £40,000 spent on course fees and living expenses would secure an additional £250,000 over the span of a career. Nearly 90% of Reaseheath graduates who completed degrees last year were in related employment within six months of completing their course on an average starting salary of £21,000.

Degrees gained at Reaseheath College were specialist, technical qualifications which enabled students to gain both knowledge and the necessary skills and competencies to carve out a successful career.

In such a competitive jobs market it was important that higher education (HE) programmes were delivered and validated by high quality, well respected institutions. Reaseheath’s own HE programmes had recently been inspected by the Quality Assurance Agency and had received fantastic report, equivalent to an ‘Outstanding’ from Ofsted.

Reaseheath continued to invest in specialist facilities and resources which would give students the competitive edge in the jobs market. Over £40 million had been spent on facilities which were recognised as among the best in the country. A further £10 million would be invested this year into a national centre for Food Futures and Environmental Management and this would be followed by a £13 million spend on a 200 room residential building and an extension to the Higher Education Centre, both to be completed for September 2016.

Reaseheath currently had 700 students enrolled on degree courses. A significant number were mature students or were studying while working with the support of their employers. One of its most successful programmes was the Eden Project, which offers dairy technologists the chance to gain a globally recognised Foundation Degree in Dairy Technology. The qualification had been developed in close partnership with industry and was aimed at meeting demand for future managers.

Although academic progress was important, Meredydd pointed out that many graduates had helped to organise social events and charity fund raising, which last year contributed £12,000 to worthy charities.

Congratulating the graduates, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who studied politics and now has a seat in the House of Lords, said that education was vital and led to wider choices. Her key advice was to try something new and not be put off by failure. Although she had been dedicated to wheelchair racing from the age of 12 she did not win for four years and this had taught her how to train and be committed.

To find out more about our degree programmes please visit the Higher Education pages on our website.

For more photos from the day visit our Facebook page.


The Cheshire Grassland Society celebrates half century

The Cheshire Grassland Society celebrates half century

The Cheshire Grassland Society celebrated its 50th anniversary with a drinks reception and formal dinner at Reaseheath College, Nantwich, last week.

The society held its first meeting at Reaseheath in October 1964 and has held its winter meetings at the college since then.

Sixty past and present members attended including past chairmen George Radley, (1973/74), Neville Thornhill, (1982/83), Jim Fletcher (1984/85), Richard Ratcliffe (1986/87), Stuart Yarwood (1988/89), Ken Furness (1992/94), David Hughes (1994/95) and Colin Hamilton (2011/13) and current chairman Phil Feeney. They were joined by members of the British Grassland Society and by representatives from the agriculture industry.

The Cheshire Grassland Society provides a forum for the county’s progressive grassland farmers, helping them to grow more grass which is converted by livestock into milk and meat for the supermarket shelf. The society invites specialist speakers to its winter meetings, organises silage and grazing competitions among members and runs an annual trip to look at top class grassland farms in other parts of the country.

The Cheshire Grassland Society secretary Lesley Innes, a member of the planning committee for the event, said: “The evening marked a significant milestone for the society and it was a great success. The drinks reception had a vibrant atmosphere and this was followed by an excellent formal dinner. Guests were delighted to have the opportunity to catch up and reminisce, particularly as some had not seen each other for years. Everyone enjoyed themselves and I am sure the evening will be talked about for a very long time.”

The event was partly sponsored by Harvey Hughes Ltd, HJ Lea Oakes, Trouw Nutrition, Germinal Seeds, Nickerson Seeds and Growhow Ltd.


Dealerships join Reaseheath College to enhance student experience

Reaseheath College agriculture students operated £1million-worth of technical machinery during the first silaging operation of the season.

The cutting edge machinery and equipment was loaned to the Cheshire college by local agricultural machinery dealerships who are supporting efforts to give Reaseheath students practical experience in precision farming.

students mowing

Reaseheath students mowing, using a blue New Holland T6 supplied by Malpas Tractors and a CLAAS Arion 530 and CLAAS mower from Morris Corfield

First year agriculture students got the chance to operate the machinery and a carefully selected group of 30 joined the full time harvesting team under supervision, enabling the harvest of first cut grass silage over 200 acres to be carried out more efficiently. The students were involved in all parts of the operation, from mowing and raking to ferrying to the silage clamp.

Harvesting of 62 acres was completed over two days with the use of three mowers. The grass was wilted for 24 hours, half of the ideal time, and then collected as rain was predicted. Average volume was 21 tonnes fresh weight per hectare (8.5 tonnes/acre) with an estimated D Value 68, Dry Matter 24%, protein 16% and ME 10-11. Ecosyl 100 silage additive was used to aid fermentation.

silaging – harvester in action

The silage will be used in conjunction with maize silage, wholecrop wheat and lucerne haylage to feed the Reaseheath Holstein milking herd from the end of June this year.

Said Farm Manager Mark Yearsley: “This was a great opportunity to give the first year students hands-on experience of the silaging process using top of the range machinery. The weather was against them but they carried out the whole operation from preparing the clamps to sealing them when finished very safely and competently.

“Some students will go on to work on farms and some will be employed by contractors. They now have the foundation and confidence to become quality staff.”

Dealerships who loaned machinery included RVW Pugh Ltd., of Holmes Chapel, which delivered a top of the range Fendt 716 tractor, Massey Ferguson tractor and a Vicon mower conditioner. Speaking for all his colleagues, Area Sales Manager Bob Cooper said: “We were delighted to help Reaseheath on this project. These students are the next generation of farmers and they will be our future customers.  It was only fitting that they should be able to see first hand the enormous technological advances which are being made within the industry.”

Dealerships which loaned machinery for the silaging operation were:

You can find out more about our Agriculture courses here.


Reaseheath College wins at Cheshire Show

Reaseheath College’s action packed exhibition was voted Best Outside Education Stand at this week’s Cheshire Show.

The Nantwich, Cheshire, college took top honours after judges gave it full marks for the enthusiasm of its staff and students and the diversity of activities it offered visitors.

High Sheriff of Cheshire Susan Sellers chats to florists

High Sheriff of Cheshire Susan Sellers chats to florists

Top crowd puller on the stand was a Caterpillar digger which gave visitors the chance to operate the controls to move golf balls and tyres. The digger was on loan from John Bownes of Winsford.

Families also enjoyed riding the college’s mechanical horse, tried boat building with construction students and watched ferret racing. Other activities, under the banner ‘Do Something Different’, included a climbing wall, a model cow which could be milked, a  horticultural quiz, a floristry demonstration, bird box making and a bakery demonstration. Animals from the college’s zoo and a student show garden were also on display.

VIP visitors to the stand included the High Sheriff of Cheshire Susan Sellers, who said: “I have been impressed with the breadth of activities, the knowledge and enthusiasm of staff and the obvious interest they are generating among members of the public.”

2Agriculture students Rebecca Harper, Kirsty Tailor, Liberty Turner and Lydia Diamond show youngstock from Reaseheath Holsteins

Agriculture students Rebecca Harper, Kirsty Tailor, Liberty Turner and Lydia Diamond show youngstock from Reaseheath Holsteins

Reaseheath agriculture students also celebrated success in the cattle show ring by gaining awards in the calf showing and young handler classes. Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture students Rebecca Harper, Kirsty Tailor and Liberty Turner and Level 2 Diploma in Agriculture student Lydia Diamond showed heifers from the Reaseheath Holstein dairy herd.

Marketing Manager Glyn Ferriday 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.”

To see what other shows we’ll be visiting this summer visit our ‘Reaseheath on the Road’ page.


Chancellor applauds plans for cutting edge Food Futures Centre

George Osborne cuts the first sod for the National Centre for Food Futures and the Environment, watched by Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David, MP Stephen O’Brien, MEP candidate Kevin Beaty  and Martin Smout, executive chairman of construction partner GB Building Solutions.

George Osborne cuts the first sod for the National Centre for Food Futures and the Environment, watched by Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David, MP Stephen O’Brien, MEP candidate Kevin Beaty and Martin Smout, executive chairman of construction partner GB Building Solutions.

Chancellor George Osborne has congratulated Reaseheath College’s efforts to help food producers meet the challenge of world population growth and climate change.

Cutting the first sod on the site of a £8.5 million National Centre for Food Futures and the Environment, Mr Osborne said: “Reaseheath College is rightly renowned for the quality of the education it provides, especially in the agriculture industry. I always want to try to provide funding for projects like this.

“One of the key elements of our long-term economic plan is to deliver the best schools and skills for young people  in all sectors so the next generation can succeed in the global race.”

The Chancellor chats to members of the Reaseheath’s Student Association.

The Chancellor chats to members of the Reaseheath’s Student Association.

The industry-led project will enable the Nantwich, Cheshire, college to support the government’s agri-tech strategy, which aims to make the UK a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills, through the Skills Funding Agency, has allocated £5.8m of capital grant for the project.  The remainder has come directly from the college.

The building will provide a national centre for horticultural production, environmental management and conservation and renewable energy, and will be the leading one of its type in the country. It will include a visitor and interpretation centre and a schools unit and is the latest of a string of world class facilities to be built on campus.

In a second project, the college, in partnership with Cheshire East Council, is to develop a state-of-the-art centre for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. This £1.5m project, funded by the Education Funding Agency, will develop desperately needed specialist facilities for students from the Cheshire East area.

Both developments are to be sited on the former college golf course. The buildings have been designed with considerable input from industry advisors and are planned to be open for students and the public by September 2015.

George Osborne chats to arboriculture students.

George Osborne chats to arboriculture students.

The college also intends to reconstruct its existing turf based sports pitches and build new 3G and multi-use artificial sports areas. A sports centre for use by both students and the local community is also planned. This will cater for grass based team sports and sports requiring an artificial playing surface such as hockey, as well as offering  a six court sports hall, team changing facilities and a fitness centre.

Space released by the relocation of the horticulture department has been earmarked for further halls of residence, with construction planned to start this summer.

Vice Principal Dave Kynaston, George Osborne, Stephen O'Brien

George Osborne with Reaseheath Vice Principal Dave Kynaston and MP Stephen O’Brien.

Welcoming the Chancellor’s visit, Principal Meredydd David said that Reaseheath was delighted to be involved in the development of another world class educational facility.

He said: “I am thrilled that the government has identified Reaseheath as their preferred location for investing capital to develop this national Food Futures Centre. This will ensure that Reaseheath can continue to deliver specialist technical and educational training to next generation leaders.”

Mr Osborne was accompanied on his visit by local MP Stephen O’Brien and  MEP candidate for the north west Kevin Beaty.

Old Hall Field Sumo Subsoiler Demonstration

Earlier this month our Agriculture Department received a machinery demonstration from SUMO UK Ltd. Richard Hales, sales manager for Sumo, brought the machinery on-site for a demonstration and to start a trial on one of our fields.

Staff and final year Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture students were involved in the machinery demonstration. As well as being able to see what the machinery is capable of, the demonstration linked in with the grassland module our students are currently completing.

Anthony Jones from Agriculture, along with Farm Manager Mark Yearsley, have teamed up with Richard Hales from SUMO to organise this grassland trial. The trial will investigate the possibility of more consistent grass growth, extended grazing season and reduced chemical fertiliser costs as well as better soil health and structure.

The trial is expected to lead on to further research of the improvements that the subsoil machine can bring to the grazing grassland at Reaseheath.

The field was split into three areas. The first strip has been treated with the subsoil machine provided by SUMO at a depth of 8 inches. The middle strip was left untreated. The final strip, at the far end of the field, was aerated to a depth of 4 inches by first year Level 3 Extended Diploma students on one of their practicals. This enable staff and students to compare and contrast the different treatments available to existing swards.

This research will be ongoing in Field 7 over at Old Hall and will be repeated in the autumn through to next spring 2015.

The public will in fact be part of this trial as in May Field 7 will be used as a car park for our annual Family Festival. This will put pressure on the field and compact it. Following the Family Festival the recovery of the field will be monitored and hopefully the area which has been treated with the SUMO machine will hold up to compaction the best.


Reaseheath students look for alternative to soya in sheep feed

Agricultural students from Reaseheath College are helping to carry out a trial to replace soya with a more sustainable UK grown protein in ewe feed.

Thirty Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture students are assisting Reaseheath Sheep Unit Manager Oliver Bagley and Course Manager Richard Wheeldon to run the trial during the Nantwich, Cheshire college’s busy lambing period in March and early April. Data will be evaluated to see if replacing soya with alternative sources of protein affects the growth weight and kill weight of lambs.

Soya is traditionally imported into this country from South America and is often fed in meal form to pregnant ewes and lambs. Experts believe that the UK needs to produce its own sources of protein to improve the long term sustainability of its sheep production.

The project is funded by EBLEX, the organisation for beef and lamb levy payers in England, and run by ADAS, the agricultural and environmental consultancy. It was offered to Reaseheath because of the college’s partnership with the National Sheep Association.

The trial involves feeding different rations to six groups, each containing 40 twin bearing ewes. All groups are fed TMR rations based on home-produced grass silage. In addition, the control group receives supplementary barley and soya which is replaced in the other groups with blends of rape and fodder beet, barley and wheat dark distillers grains, barley and beans, rape and barley or wheat dark distillers grains and fodder beet.

Callum Pitchford and Laura Bellis fit an EID tag to a lamb

Callum Pitchford and Laura Bellis fit an EID tag to a lamb

Uneaten food is methodically gathered and weighed. All lambs are systematically weighed at birth, four and eight weeks, at weaning and at sale. The lambs are EID tagged, enabling the students to record the data efficiently. The ewes are also weighed directly after lambing.

Kate Phillips, Principal Livestock Consultant with ADAS explained: “There is a need to find  viable and alternative sources to soya which are more sustainable to the UK feed industry. We are delighted that Reaseheath’s agricultural students are helping to carry out this important project for us and we are very much looking forward to receiving their feedback.”

Richard Wheeldon said: “Our students complete investigative projects which include research and data collection as part of their Level 3 course. We believe that these projects, which are similar to a dissertation, encourage our students to continue their studies to degree level and to look at the many science based careers within the industry.

“Taking part in a real life, hands-on trial like this also gives them the unique opportunity to deliver results which will hopefully benefit the industry.”

Visit the Agriculture pages on our website to find out more about our courses.

Reaseheath’s lambing and zoo promise twice the fun

Local families can enjoy twice the fun if they visit Reaseheath College, Nantwich, during the first two weekends in March.

Preparations are well in hand for the college’s popular lambing events and the campus zoo will also be open to the public.

Reaseheath’s lambing weekends have been a community highlight for over 20 years and attract thousands of visitors eager to meet the new arrivals in the lambing sheds. The college has a flock of 500 sheep ready to give birth and about 1,000 lambs are expected over a three week period.

A big screen will show highlights of the action and experts will be on hand to demonstrate the special care required for fostering lambs. Children will be encouraged to watch and learn as lambs are bottle fed and given health checks.

Reaseheath’s shepherd Ollie Bagley, 21, a former Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture student, is in charge of a rota of students who are gaining practical experience in  lambing sheds.

He said: “Everything is ready for the lambing weekends. Fortunately for us the sheep are indoors but we are obviously hoping that the weather will pick up and that the fields will dry out.”

Families will also have the chance to see some of the  animals in Reaseheath’s zoo, which include meerkats, lemurs, tapirs, otters, birds of prey and companion animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs.

This year’s theme is agricultural rare breeds and visitors will be encouraged to meet the college’s golden Guernsey goat kids. There will be children’s arts and craft sessions and other fun activities along with educational talks by Reaseheath zoo keepers. Young visitors to lambing will also be able to plant up baskets with Spring bulbs and flowers.


Reaseheath College’s lambing sheds and zoo will open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, March 1 / 2 and on Saturday and Sunday, March 8 / 9 from 10am to 4pm. Hot refreshments will be available and outdoor plants from the college’s Crop Shop will be for sale.  A family ticket for both attractions is £25. For further details see  phone 01270 613215 or email

Farm and dairy herd brings in the cream

Our farm staff were over the mooooooon last week after receiving one of the most prestigious awards in the Cheshire County Farms competition.

We won the category for best farm over 500 acres, a tremendous accolade as we were judged against some of the best commercial farms in the county. The farm was judged as a whole, with the judges inspecting our dairy herd, pig unit, sheep flock and arable and growing crops.

Awards in this competition are particularly welcome, as the judging panel are made up of farmers who really know the industry.

Reaseheath Holsteins were awarded third place in three categories: premier dairy herd, in calf heifers and maiden heifers.

Farm Manager Mark Yearsley said: “gaining these awards against competition with the best shows what a great farm and great staff we have. We were delighted to win the awards and I’d like to thank the team for all the hard work they put in to make it happen.”

The awards, which were handed over at a dinner at the Civic Hall, Nantwich,  also included a new category ‘Competent Young Person in Agriculture’ which is sponsored by Reaseheath.

This is open to young people aged between 16 and 24 who work on a Cheshire farm. Marks are awarded for enthusiasm, passion, competence, responsibilities and future aspirations. The applicants are judged at their workplace as they carry out their job.

All the young people in the top four places were trained at Reaseheath. The winner, David Marrow, completed his agricultural apprenticeship with us as did second placed Andrew Dodgson and equal third Richard Venables. Will Mansell, also equal third, is a current Level 3 student.