A Brilliant Morning at Balgracie!

Huge thanks to Mr Drennan of Balgracie Farm and Isobel Milroy from RHET for inviting the P5/6 pupils from Kirkcolm, Portpatrick and Leswalt to the farm for a farm tour and question session on a beautifully chilly October morning.

Mr Drennan has lived/worked at Balgracie for over 46 years. The farmĀ  is a dairy,beef, sheep and crop farm. Teamwork ensures all the jobs get done on the farm – it’s a very busy job! He works alongside two workers to keep the farm going and sometimes workers from nearby farms help one another out too. Isobel Milroy was on-hand to help us with some of the questions and guide us around. She also tested our listening skills with a ‘Million Pound Drop’ style quiz. This really got us thinking!

We saw the calves and heard about what they are fed and when. The calves must have their mother’s special colostrum milk in their first six hours of life as this contains special antibodies to help them be healthy. We saw where the cows are milked and Mr Drennan explained how this is done and where the milk is then stored. Milking is done twice daily; at 6am and 5pm and it tends to take about two and a half hours to do this. Once they are milked, the cow’s teats are dipped in a special anti-bacterial liquid which helps to kill off bacteria.The milk is collected from the cows at body temperature, cooled to about 16 degrees as it passes through the pipes then, once in the milk tank which holds 5000 litres of milk, it is cooled to below 3.5 degrees. The milk tanker collects the milk every 2nd day. At the moment, milk is sold for about 29p a litre – it is crazy to think we pay more for water! Mr Drennan’s milk is sold to Nestle and is used to make the chocolate covering for Kit Kats!

Mr Drennan talked about the animal’s passports and how important these are; they cannot be bought/sold without this paperwork. Tagging the animal gives it a unique reference number; each farm has a number too. This keeps a paper trail of every animal.

The cows have a shed where they sleep at night. Soon they will be brought in through the day too as it is becoming colder. The cows sleep in the shed between cubicle divisions on a rubber mat and sawdust. The shed is scraped and the muck falls to a cellar below. This is thenĀ pumped every two weeks to a slurry tank and then used on the fields. No waste!

We went into the shed which houses the hay, straw, cattle crush and some cows in for their ‘dry’ period before they are due to calve. Cows are brought in for this for the two months before the calf is due to be born. The scanner is actually visiting the farm tomorrow to scan 70 cows! This job will take all morning.

It was amazing to see just how much there is to do on a farm. Some of our pupils were able to talk about their own experiences too. It’s a busy time for farmers all year round. We made sure we cleaned our hands and welly boots thoroughly and the beginning and end of the visit – and again once we were back at school.

Getting a Kit Kat from Mr Drennan was an extra bonus at the end of our visit! Thank you!