WORK EXPERIENCE: Our reporter is a farm hand

WORK EXPERIENCE: Our reporter is a farm hand

Work Experience - Fran Gillett at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran. Fran gets a freshly laid egg from one of the farm's chickens. (8551737)

Work Experience - Fran Gillett at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran. Fran cleans up the pig's pen. (8551765)

Work Experience - Fran Gillett at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran. Fran helps to milk a cow using a special milking machine. (8551792)

Work Experience - Fran Gillett at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran. Fran turning the hay for the goats. (8551838)

Work Experience - Fran Gillett at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran. Fran having a go in a tractor. (8551885)

Work Experience - Fran Gillett at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran. Fran having a go in a tractor. (8551932)

Work Experience - Fran Gillett at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran. Fran leaves some food for the animals. (8551972)

First published in News

ALTHOUGH he has only been there just over a year, farm assistant Dean Roderick knows the story of each of the animals at Greenmeadow Community Farm off by heart.

There’s the turkeys, Gavin and Stacey, who have made it through every Christmas yet, and the donkeys who are on loan from the nearby sanctuary.

But Dean’s favourite animal on the farm is the pigs.

The farm houses its own pure breed pigs which have won countless rosettes at shows across Wales with a recent appearance at the Royal Welsh Show last weekend, as well as the pure-breed boar Basil.

Father-of-two Dean said: “Everyone thinks pigs are the dirtiest animals but actually they are the cleanest with separate areas for sleeping and waste.

We peered into the pens where piglets had recently been born.

“Every piglet has its own teat that it always goes back to and will never switch. The mother will never have more teats than piglets, but there is always a runt in every litter.”

These were just some of the nuggets of farm trivia I learned as I walked around the farm with Dean, sweltering in my green overalls in the 26 degree heat.

The pigs were feeling the heat too and were cooled down with a hose as families watched and laughed.

I joined Dean for a day at the farm to see just exactly what hard work is involved to run a farm like Greenmeadow.

There are eight farm assistants who help with the day-to-day running of the farm, which has been going for 25 years, but they also take on numerous volunteers from age 14 and upwards.

The day starts at 8am with the feeding of the animals and runs until 5pm, but work does not always finish on time if an animal decides to leg it.

This certainly happened while I was there, with a stray chicken having to be chased back into its pen and Dipsy the cow taking a little diversion outside after being milked.

Every morning the farm assistants collect the eggs from the chicken coop and with the Rhode Island Reds breed producing around 300 eggs a year each, this simple task cannot be neglected.

I crouched into the corner of the coop to reach a nestled hen and Dean told me to put my hand under to check if she was hiding any eggs.

There was a single egg there, surprisingly hotter than I thought it would be, and I carefully lifted it out from underneath with my hand.

“You can eat all the eggs, fertile or not,” Dean told me.

“But we have separate areas for the cockerels and the hens, so the eggs we sell we know have not been fertilised. The fertilised eggs we hatch here ourselves.”

Dean said the farm did have a complaint from a member of the public who did not approve of the cafe serving sausages, bacon and other animal-derived products after a wander around the farm.

He said: “But we have to make money. It wouldn’t be an authentic farm. We do use some of the animals for meat.”

The farm, which extends over 120 acres, also sells on animals to local interested buyers with small holdings, and for £70 you could find yourself walking home with your very own goat.

Incubator egg kits are also given to Coleg Gwent’s agricultural course and local schools who watch and study the eggs before sending them back to the farm.

Next we went to meet Dipsy, one of the dairy cows, for a milking demonstration.

An average dairy cow can produce up to 40 kilos of milk a day but because Dipsy currently had a calf the amount would drop to about 16 kilos.

The milking demonstration garnered a lot of interest from families and children who gathered round to have a try, which was surprisingly difficult to do.

Dean showed me the ideal technique for the udder, but that didn’t help when I accidentally sprayed a small child with the fresh milk.

Also at the farm, visitors can take part in ferret racing, a Sprint and Scoff event for the sheep, pig racing, tractor rides as well as spending an hour or two in the farm’s Cuddle Corner.

Greenmeadow Farm also welcomes groups from nearby special needs schools, as well as children who don’t fit into mainstream schools because of behavioural problems.

Dean said: “Kids who are angry and misbehave in school come to the farm and are totally different people. It’s because of the different environment.”

The farm has also recently launched a new ‘Farmer for a Day’ experience which they said have been extremely popular.

With separate days for both adults and children, animal-lovers can spend a day at the farm doing many of the activities needed to run the farm.

Dean said: “We started them back at the beginning of the year and they’ve been hugely popular.

“They come in first in the morning and we give them a talk and go through all the dfferent activities and then go behind the scenes. We do feeding, collect the eggs, milk the cows and give the animals new hay and water.”

The work was exhausting, perhaps made a little harder because of the soaring temperatures and even the farm staff were wishing for rain the following day.

For more information or to book a Farmer for a Day experience, contact 01633 647662.

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