Goat teacher for the day, 13.6.17-14.6.17

Each day, 100 students travelled to the farm and split into their classes of 30 for activities.

I was responsible for the livestock aspects of the farm, with Dot leading the sheepdog demonstration and a primary school teacher showing the biodiversity of the area (grass types etc). The 3 classes had scheduled sessions with each of us leaders.

First of all, I asked the class about their understanding of the longevity of a hen and the issues with battery hens before explaining the differences with enriched hens / free range / organic, and the hens on this farm having a less brutal end of passing away naturally rather than once they have surpassed their maximum egg laying capacity @ 18 months old. I taught them that the usual supermarket eggs are laid by ISA brown hens but here on the farm, we have rare breeds such as the Cotswold Cream Legbar and Copper Black Marran, meaning the eggs are ‘rainbow eggs’ as the hen determines the egg shade. We then fed the hens wheat, and I picked a hen up for them to feel how soft the feathers are and gave them time to take selfies with her.

I took 15 at a time into the hen house, and asked them where they thought the hens slept and where they got water from (9 times out of 10 they were wrong), they were intrigued at the answers. Once I moved a broody hen out of the way, the students collected the eggs and we compared all of the different colours and identified the hen breeds. A frequent question was ”are there chicks in here”, so I explained that as there are cockerels on the farm that they may have mated with the hens so the eggs would be fertilised, but the hen always lays eggs. Any chicks would be a few cells.

We then went into the egg room to show them the recent olive egger chicks that had hatched out, I picked one up for them to stroke. I explained the use of the egg grader machine, and we had a competition to see who could guess the relative weights most accurately, I described resistance to them and the basic principles of physics that allow the machine to work. I linked this with the egg boxes in the supermarket, so they understood that farmers need to know which eggs to put in the medium / large egg boxes but do not have all day to guess by eye (the competition proved that it was incredibly difficult to be correct). An interesting question is to ask where the students keep their eggs at home, because most agree with fridge, so I explained the science behind why they should be kept at room temperature (bringing in the structure of the egg and basic pathology for year 7s to understand).

At this point, they were eager to see the goats so we walked down into the barn and I went into the pens to call the goats in. Before we hand fed them, I gave an introduction to outline the uses of goats in farming (meat/milk/fibre) and the common breeds in the UK. To the students shocked by goats being meat animals, I described the differing conditions of this farm where they have free range of fields compared to intensive factory farming and the importance of knowing where your produce comes from (promoting to shop locally and support small businesses). I taught them the different names for goats (doelings/bucklings…does…wethers (castrated billy)… billy/buck. Once we had fed them, I asked them why they thought that some had horns and some didn’t although they were all girls in the big pin so I educated them about disbudding and the arguments for and against it. I had questions about limping, so described foot rot and what we do to treat it on a basic level, and why the udders were big so I explained that this goat was a cross breed with a toggenberg which is a dairy goat hence producing more milk than the boers.

As the students loved to hear about the goats and were eager to learn, I taught them more difficult topics such as kid immunity from colostrum (described as the first milk of a doe) and I explained why the goats appeared to be chewing (chewing the cud) so outlined rumination on a basic level so the year 7s could grasp the concept of having 4 chambers to a stomach.

Teaching people about goats is great :D.

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