We are still open for school visits!!
In September we started our new independent chapter of life here at Mount Pleasant School Farm and have already welcomed our first schools.
For many years, we worked in partnership with Birmingham City Council’s Outdoor Learning Service (OLS) but recent budget cuts have resulted in the closure of that service.
The Worgan Trust is very pleased to be able to continue the school and to help provide an interesting, fun day on a working farm. It is committed to securing its future for the educational benefit of the next generations of children in Birmingham and further afield.
We feel it is important to teach all children, from urban areas, about farming, food and the countryside. The school farm is accessible to a large area of England and Wales, unique in the West Midlands and crucially is not of the ‘adventure’ day-out variety.
A day here is carefully designed to complement the National Curriculum and enhance the children’s learning and understanding of agriculture and environmental issues.
Our centre is a ‘new build’ completed in September 2009 and consists of a large classroom, full toilet and disabled facilities, a small kitchen and specially designed boot washing and changing room area. We provide all wellies and waterproofs.
The building is fully insulated with underfloor heating provided by an air source heat pump. It also has a rainwater collection system and a reed bed with pond.
Big windows along the South and East of the classroom allow easy viewing of the farm work; but we like the children to be outside as much of the day as possible so they can see the livestock and get a feel of what a real farm is like.
Peter and Emma Charles have the tenancy of the farm and own the cattle, tractors and equipment. It is their livelihood and the farm is very much a business and a working farm.
We hope you will come and see Mount Pleasant for yourselves. We look forward to welcoming you here in the New Year.
Winter means the grass has stopped growing and so we have to bring all 250 dairy cows indoors until Spring. We do this around the time that the clocks go back.
This provides plenty of challenges, but it does mean that the cows are easy to reach and to see from the classroom with its big wide windows. Peter and Emma Charles and their farm worker, Janos, have to make sure the cows have enough food to continue producing high quality milk.
Twice a day Peter, or Janos, top up the cows’ food, called silage, in the mangers in the cowshed.
The silage is pickled grass; the grass was cut in the spring and summer months and heaped into a large clamp. The air was squeezed out and then it was covered in plastic sheet to protect it and help it to ferment. Each cow eats about 80kg of plant food every day.
Peter has a special cow food mixer on the back of the tractor, called a mixer wagon, which can be driven down through the cowshed.
The yummy mixture includes the silage, chopped up wheat (looks like Weetabix) bread left over from supermarkets and molasses (like syrup). We also put in extra vitamins to give the cows a healthy balanced diet.
The amount of milk each cows produces tends to go down in the winter, so they need to have lots of tasty food. Some of the cows will be expecting a new calf within two months and so stop making milk, or ‘go dry’ and are moved into the brand new cowshed next door, which has lots of airy space and lighting.
Winter on the farm is a very busy time. Even on Christmas Day, Peter and Janos will still be starting work at 5.30am to milk the cows! And after Christmas Dinner, they’ll have to think about the next round of milking at 15.45pm!
Tinkerbell the Farm Dog
It was clear the farm needed another dog, so last year the girls went with their Brownie Pack to visit an animal rescue centre. They met a scruffy, skinny, funny dog called Tinkerbell and the girls asked their Mum, Emma, if she could come and live at the farm.
So during May Half Term in 2013, Tinkerbell came to the farm to stay for a week to see if she would cope with the dairy cows and the other animals. She had never been badly treated but her owners couldn’t keep her any longer.
Tinkerbell is still here, a lot fatter and now very cheeky. She rushes everywhere on the farm yet understands when to get out of the way of a tractor or school coach!
She is sometimes called ‘Stinky Tink’, as she likes to snoop around all the smelly places on the farm. One of her favourite places is around the cows’ food as she pulls the bits of stale bread out of the silage mixture, and the carrots out of the sack left by the pigpen.
She loves sun bathing outside the classroom and all the children seem to love Tink. Some teachers want to take her back to their schools! Even children who are scared of dogs can see that she is happy and doesn’t bark but talks to everyone.
Lucky Lottie the calf
He helped Lottie to deliver her calf, but it was tiny. It was half the size of a normal calf, but perfectly formed and very pretty.
Calves usually weigh about 34kg when they are born, but Lottie’s calf was well below that weight. Peter didn’t know if she was fully developed or if she would survive as the weather got colder.
A female calf is always given her mother’s name, so the new arrival was also called Lottie. She wasn’t able to stand up as her muscles were so weak and thin and it seemed unlikely that she would survive.
Peter’s wife, Emma, and their three daughters were determined to keep her alive and to build up her strength and weight. Calves can’t stay long with their mothers as the cows need to be together to go into to be milked, so it was quite natural to keep Lottie separate and give her lots of TLC.
Emma’s dad even bought little Lottie a dog coat from the pet shop to keep her body warm at night. Lottie is still wearing that dog coat, but it looks rather short, as she has grown so much!
Peter and Emma’s three girls went to see Lottie every day after school and walked her around the farmyard to build up her muscles. They began by walking in front with a big bottle of milk and she soon learnt to follow them. Even Tinkerbell the farm dog tried to play with her!
Now she is big enough to go into a proper calf kennel and she has been registered, like all the other calves. She will soon have ears big enough to be ear tagged – but she will always be a special Lucky Lottie.
We get lots of lovely feedback from our visitors. A school that visited recently was St Ambrose Barlow, whose Year 2 thoroughly enjoyed and benefitted from the experience.
Here’s what they had to say:
Erin: ‘The cows are very smelly but useful because they give us milk’.
Amber: ‘My favourite part was when we did the wellie wash’ .
Victor: ‘I was scared of the cockerel but I want to go back to Mount Pleasant Farm’.
Holly: ‘The school trip was awesome. My favourite part was the cows’.
Olivia: ‘The sheep’s tongue tickled my hand. My favourite part was milking the cow with Grace’.
Maddison: ‘Tinkerbell was following us in the farm. The mud squashed in my wellies. My favourite animal was the pink fat pigs’.