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’s rising stars recognised

The contribution that Reaseheath College apprentices make to regional businesses was recognised at a glittering awards ceremony.

The event highlighted the achievement of 150 apprentices who had gained their qualifications at the Nantwich specialist college in the past year. It was held during National Apprenticeships Week, a celebration of the benefits that skilled apprentices bring to businesses and to the national economy by increasing productivity and providing workforce succession.

Reaseheath College is a leading trainer of apprentices throughout Cheshire and surrounding counties and also provides a valuable recruitment service for employers.

It has extended the delivery of its apprenticeship programmes across the East Midlands by acquiring DART Training, a specialist land-based training provider. Over 1,000 apprentices in land based industries are now trained by Reaseheath Training and DART.

The apprentices, who are in paid employment, receive academic training from college assessors and gain practical skills in the workplace. Although the majority are aged between 16 and 24, Reaseheath also offers adult apprenticeships for those aged over 25. Training programmes can start at any time of the year, and there are vacancies in a number of trades currently available.

Top honours of the awards ceremony went to Apprentice of the Year Sophie Bell, a Level 2 Business Administration apprentice in Reaseheath’s busy marketing department, and to Advanced Apprentice of the Year Ross Brownbill, assistant dairy manager for leading Cheshire farmer Richard Archer. Kate Rooke, a Preston based bull technician for Genus Breeding, was runner-up Advanced Apprentice of the Year.

All three were selected for their commitment to their studies, attention to detail at their workplace and for their outstanding contribution to their employers’ businesses.

Sophie, of Mow Cop, Stoke on Trent, a former pupil at Congleton High School, joined Reaseheath’s business support staff two years ago and has progressed onto her Level 3 apprenticeship. Her varied duties range from helping to organise the college’s course open days, public events and schools programmes to representing the marketing department at internal meetings.

She said: “I was very proud to receive this award. It’s nice to be recognised for working hard. My Grandad won ‘Apprentice of the Year’ 50 years ago, so I seem to be following in the family tradition!”

Ross, a former Royal Marine, has his sights firmly set on career progression and already helps to manage 700 dairy cows.

He said: “Although I’ve only been in the farming industry for five years, my apprenticeship prepared me well. I’ve gained a lot of practical experience through working for several farms and that, combined with sound academic training at Reaseheath, helped me to get a job with good prospects.”

Guest speaker at the ceremony was Barbara Hughes, a successful dairy farmer from Malpas who employs apprentices on the family’s 220 acre farm. She was joined on the podium by last year’s Level 3 agriculture apprentice of the year Adam Brown, 27, who works as an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) technician on Reaseheath’s demonstration AD plant and is also employed on his family’s dairy farm in Holmes Chapel.

The awards were announced by Reaseheath Training Manager Christine Middleton. Other principle winners were:

Best Agricultural Apprentice (Level 2): David Stoner, a stockman for FW Hughes and Sons dairy farm in Mold, North Wales.

Best Agricultural Apprentice (Level 3): Sam Blythe, who works for GF Blythe and Son, his family’s dairy farm on Dunham on the Hill near Helsby.

Edit Agriculture Best Level 3 Apprentice Sam Blythe with Anna Hughes

Agriculture Best Level 3 Apprentice Sam Blythe with Anna Hughes

Best Level 3 Farmcare Apprentice: Kamil Peno, who works on a Farmcare fruit farm in Herefordshire. Kamil was one of six Farmcare apprentices to complete their Level 3 apprenticeship at Reaseheath this year.

Best Construction Apprentice (Brickwork): Ben Hardwick, a Level 3 apprentice  who is employed by  John Cliff Building Services of Market Drayton. John Cliff is a great supporter of apprenticeship training and all his current workforce have qualified through the programme.

Best Construction Apprentice (Joinery): Tom Spibey, a Level 3 student who is one of several apprentices working for RS Developments of Calveley.

Construction Best Apprentices Tom Spibey and Ben Hardwick with Andy Armitage assessor

Construction Best Apprentices Tom Spibey and Ben Hardwick with Andy Armitage assessor

Best Level 2 Equine Apprentice: Bethany Gerrard, a groom at Denstone Stud and Riding Centre, Uttoxeter.

Best Horticulture Apprentice: Jim Alley, a trainee greenkeeper with Delamere Forest Golf Club, who achieved his Level 2 apprenticeship in sports turf

Best Food Apprentice:  Tom Jackson, a Level 3 trainee food technician with Appleby Creamery in Cumbria.

Certificates of Excellence:

Jack Vaughan  (P Vaughan))

Peter Lofthouse (Tatton Park Gardens)

Luke Salter (Muller Dairy UK)

Certificates of Endeavour:

Ben McNulty (Nick McNulty)

Jack Bennison (Andrew Bennison)

Certificates for Outstanding Achievement:

Mark Marrow (Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council)

For more information on the apprenticeships offered at Reaseheath click here.

Record Year for Reaseheath College

One of the country’s most successful specialist colleges, Reaseheath College in Nantwich, Cheshire, has notched up another record year of student enrolments and achievements.

The college’s annual awards ceremony, held over two days last week, celebrated the success of  1371 Further Education students who had achieved industry recognised qualifications and skills.

Torrence Summerfield, Becky Harper, Jess Fallows, Amy Champ, James Latter L3 Ext Dip Agriculture top students

Top Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture students Torrence Summerfield, Becky Harper, Jess Fallows, Amy Champ and James Latter

The students, from across the UK and abroad, are preparing for careers in agriculture, environmental conservation, animal or equine management, agricultural engineering, motor vehicle, business, food manufacture, floristry, horticulture, forestry, construction, public services or in leisure industries such as sport and outdoor adventure.

Sharing congratulations with a capacity audience, Principal Meredydd David emphasised that 97% of Reaseheath’s students achieve their qualification and that 90% progress into employment or onto higher level courses.

A recent independent economic impact assessment had shown that Reaseheath contributed £85 million to the regional economy last year and that parents and students receive a 17% return on their investment in education – a £7 return for every pound invested.

Jack Williams, top student, Level 3 Diploma Countryside Management

Jack Williams, top student, Level 3 Diploma Countryside Management

Fantastic opportunities lay ahead for Reaseheath students as the importance of the industries they were about to enter had been recognised by the government. An agriculture and technology strategy had been launched, supported by £80million of investment.

To stay abreast with these opportunities, Reaseheath was investing £8million to develop a national centre for horticulture, environmental management and sustainability which would open in September 2015.

This year, the college had opened a new hall of residence for 150 students, a new sport fitness centre and a National Academy for Food Engineering in partnership with industry. This brought the total investment on world class facilities over eight years to £45 million. There were plans to invest a further £30 million over the next five years.

Guest speakers were Dr Pete Waterman from Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership and John Myers, Head of Employer and Delivery Services, and Jane Cowell, Director of Young People’s Funding, both from the Education Funding Agency.

Five outstanding students received special cross college awards

Twm-Tegid Brunton, a Level 3 Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture student, was chosen as the student making the best contribution to college life. An outstanding student ambassador, he had voluntarily attended over 40 college information events and had gone out of his way to support the student services team. A  member of the North West Welsh Opera Choir, he had also sung at the student ball.

Katie Gibson, who had completed Level 3 Diploma in Professional Bakery, were selected for making the best all round contribution to the college. She had made an outstanding input into RAG (Raising and Giving) activities and had added responsibilities as press officer for the student magazine.

Rachel Bowles, a Foundation Degree in Animal Management undergraduate, was singled out for personal qualities. The Student Association sustainability representative, Rachel was also chair of Reaseheath’s Conservation Society as well as helping to lead charity fundraising.

Student Association President Sam Norfolk, a Foundation Degree in Adventure Sports graduate, was recognised for contributing most to Reaseheath’s sporting activities. As captain of Reaseheath’s Men’s football team, he had played 11 competitive matches and organised additional charity matches and sporting projects.

Lucy Culwick, a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture student, was awarded the Beacon Trophy celebrating excellence. Diagnosed as having a  hole in her heart during her course, Lucy had undergone open heart surgery and had recuperated for just six weeks before returning to college. She had caught up with her studies, involved herself with college life and was now going to study for a Degree in Agriculture.


You can see the full role of honour and more photographs from the day here.