Dovecote Park producer hosts Country Trust event

This June, our livestock team were delighted to organise a Country Trust event for 30 schoolchildren at the farm of Elizabeth Jervis, one of our beef producers. Here, Cattle Connect Manager Laura Masters shares her experience of the event.
We are delighted to report the recent success of our Country Trust event held at Elizabeth Jervis’ farm in Stafford. A group of 30 children from John Randall Primary School were able to visit one of our beef farms as part of a cross supply chain initiative between Waitrose and the Country Trust.

The relationship has evolved with the Country Trust as one of our organic producers David Thompson has been instrumental in its success by regularly hosting schools at his farm in Northumberland, a commitment he was subsequently commended for by receiving a Waitrose Farming Award a few years ago. Elizabeth has a suckler herd comprising of around 90 cows all put to an Aberdeen Angus bull. The herd is closed with all progeny (except replacement heifers) being sent to Dovecote Park on the Aberdeen Angus scheme. Swinchurch farm was a great example for the school children as there is also an arable enterprise with combinable crops, some of which are fed as a home-grown ration to the cattle. Elizabeth has been supplying cattle to Dovecote Park for 9 years.

The aim for the day was to introduce the children to cattle and the countryside, we also wanted to work alongside the school’s curriculum and therefore included a section on feed, beef breeds, cuts, traceability and lastly, cattle anatomy. We started the day with a farm walk, Julie Warburton (West Midlands Farm Discovery Coordinator) from the Country Trust led the discussions on breeds of the cattle seen in the field, the welfare associated with looking after cattle and Dovecote Park’s high standards, the children were able to look through binoculars at the dairy cows located in nearby fields and compare them to the Angus suckler herd at Swinchurch Farm.

We then discussed the crops grown at Swinchurch farm, children established the difference between barley and wheat, Elizabeth then discussed the root system and encouraged them to look at the leaf, ear, stem and roots. We were able to talk to the children regarding the calendar year on the farm, and what happens in the seasonal timetable. After lunch we split into 3 groups, to rotate around the stands where we heard more about cuts of beef, the children were able to guess what they were and how they may be cooked. We also showed the variety of British breeds, and explained the difference between native and continental cattle. Children were able to touch a hide and ask about the abattoir process. Passports and ear tags were shown to the children to enable their understanding and necessity for traceability from Farm to Fork. 

The next stand supported the anatomy content of the curriculum. Children deciphered the difference between heart, lungs, liver, tongue and kidney and were encouraged to explain each of their functions in the body. As you can see from the photos this was hugely popular! Elizabeth hosted the final stand, which expanded their knowledge of animal feed, a silage bale was opened allowing them to smell the forage, the children were able to use a pestle and mortar to try and roll the barley (to illustrate the state in which it would be fed to cattle). Elizabeth explained the digestive system of a ruminant, including the four stomachs and how the ration is processed. We would like to say a big thank you to Elizabeth Jervis and her team at Swinchurch farm, the staff members at John Randall Primary School and Julie Warburton from the Country Trust. We thoroughly enjoyed the day, a day developed for a truly meaningful charity.