Necton children learn valuable lessons about livestock

Pupils from Necton Primary School visit the rare breeds at Melsop Farm Park - Maxwell Eagle with a sheep. Picture: Matthew Usher. Pupils from Necton Primary School visit the rare breeds at Melsop Farm Park - Maxwell Eagle with a sheep. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Thursday, July 3, 2014
10:55 AM

Why are Norfolk sheep famous for their wool? Why do Highland cattle have thick coats? What animals are most suited to a lowland farm?

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Pupils from Necton Primary School visit the rare breeds at Melsop Farm Park - Imogen Eagle with a goat. Picture: Matthew Usher.Pupils from Necton Primary School visit the rare breeds at Melsop Farm Park - Imogen Eagle with a goat. Picture: Matthew Usher.

These were just some of the questions being answered at a special pilot event run in Norfolk to try and educate children about the historical and geographical relevance of the livestock they see in the fields around them.

The Wayland Agricultural Society teamed up with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) at Melsop Farm Park in Scoulton, near Watton, on Tuesday with a group of children from Necton Primary School, near Swaffham.

Melsop is an open farm which is home to a wide variety of rare breeds which the children could get up close to, handle and learn about.

Ian Whettingsteel, chairman of the Wayland Agricultural Society, said: “What we are trying to do, while working within the national curriculum, is show children why various breeds of sheep, cattle, pigs come from different areas of the country. They can see what a Gloucester cow looks like and then realise that is where the Gloucester cheese comes from that they buy in the supermarket.

“There are so many facets to farming through the ages and we hope it will give them some understanding of how livestock has evolved, why some breeds have become rare and why different regions have become dependent on different farm animals.”

Later in the day the children were given a farm on paper and asked to put the right animals on that farm, whether it was a mountain farm or a lowland farm.

They were also introduced to sheep showing with a view to inviting them to take part in the competition at the society’s main fund-raising event, the Wayland Show, on August 3.

“It is a bit of a challenge for them but we hope it will grow into an inter-schools challenge for next year,” said Mr Whettingsteel.

They also learned about wool from a group of spinners and weavers and got to handle poultry under the guidance of livestock auctioneer Fabian Eagle whose children Maxwell, seven, and Imogen, six, who are pupils at Necton, were keen to get involved.

Gail Sprake, chairman of the RBST said even though the children lived in a rural area their knowledge of animals was fairly limited to household pets.

“Their hands-on knowledge is pretty much zero,” she said. “So they are a blank page and we want to see more young people gaining confidence around livestock. Days like this are so important. They may take some random facts on board but it is knowledge they didn’t have before and hopefully they will then come along to the Wayland Show and teach their parents something.”

* Do you have a story about rural life? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk.

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