2013-07-10  facebook twitter rss

Secretary Of State Launches New Dairy At Walford

Walford and North Shropshire College welcomed over 200 VIPs, students and their families to the official opening of its new dairy at its Walford Campus near Baschurch.

The event marks the completion of the first phase of an ambitious £3.2m development plan for Walford, which will be finished by the end of 2013.

Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP performing the official opening of the RD Park Dairy Centre at Walford College

Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP performing the official opening of the RD Park Dairy Centre at Walford College

The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will perform the official opening joined by representatives from local firms Minshall Construction and Fullwood, both of which have co-sponsored the event. Minshall Construction (based in Market Drayton) has been responsible for the construction of the new dairy at a cost of £500,000. Ellesmere-based Fullwood have supplied the technology for the state of the art robotic parlour and a new herringbone parlour which will operate alongside the robot at a cost of £250,000.

Work on the new dairy started in December 2012 and was completed on time, with the new facilities due to become operational just days after the official opening. The new parlour will increase milking capacity by 50% to 300 cows, securing the long-term viability of Walford Farm as a commercial unit but also providing a fantastic showcase and teaching resource for College students.

The new dairy will be known as the “RD Park Dairy Centre”, named after Walford’s first Principal the late Don Park – known to everyone as “RD”. Rather befittingly RD Park wrote in the old student magazine "Walfordian" in 1971 about developments at Walford, "Distinguished though the past has been, I am more than certain the best years are still to come”. Owen Paterson will be joined for the official opening by Robert Park, Don’s son who grew-up on campus. The official opening will take place in the new dairy building and forms part of the Walford Annual Awards, which celebrate the individual achievements of over thirty of the year’s most outstanding students at Walford.

Andrew Tyley, College Principal and Chief Executive sees the event as one of lasting significance: “The new dairy makes a powerful statement about our confidence and commitment to the dairy industry and the role of Walford in training future generations of farmers. The official opening will be a memorable occasion and a one-off opportunity for us to use the dairy building as a venue before it goes into operation next week. We could not have found a more fitting guest of honour than our local MP Owen Paterson, who is also Secretary of State. I am delighted that he has been able to join us to mark this fantastic celebration.

I also want to pay tribute to our Farm Manager, Neil Ridgway who has been the driving force behind the new dairy. He has worked like a Trojan over the past year, overseeing the new development whilst managing the day to day operations of the farm in the middle of a massive building site”.

Neil and his head herdsperson Mike Lutman are over the moon with the new dairy and champing at the bit to start operations. The College is about to take delivery of an additional 100 cows from a farm dispersal in Carmarthen, which will allow the farm to ramp up milk production within days of bringing the new dairy into use. Neil Ridgway notes: “We have managed to procure an excellent addition to the herd, which will arrive at just the right time for the new parlour. It is a fantastic investment and will mean we can hit the ground running pretty much from Day 1. Today is a very proud day for me and the farm team – especially Mike Lutman who has worked in the dairy for over thirty years. He has embraced the new technology like a man re-born”.

The next phase of construction works at Walford is already underway, with a new Rural Skills Centre and Enterprise Hub scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

Former Chair of the College’s Farm Advisory Committee, Bruce Udale is organising a public event on Sunday 22 September which will provide an opportunity for farmers and the wider public to visit the farm and see the new dairy working.


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