The University was founded in 1901 using a legacy from a local landowner, Thomas Harper Adams. The campus and parts of the farm sit on the original farmland owned by Thomas Harper Adams. The University estate has increased in size over the last 120 years to 298 hectares of owned land this is augmented by a further 402 hectares rented through a range of short-term forms of tenure.
The estate includes permanent pasture, short term forages, arable land, amenity areas together with a range of habitats including woodland, pools, water courses and stewardship sites. Cropping is based on cereals, oilseeds, a range of forages, maize and grassland. Livestock enterprises include a dairy herd, sheep, beef, pig and poultry units.
The University Dairy Unit herd of Pedigree Holstein-Friesians was started in 1955 by grading up the existing Ayrshire herd. It expanded gradually from 80 cows to the current 435 cows. The animals are split into two separate herds both on the same site. 380 Cows form the main unit here cows are managed commercially, alongside farm-based research and teaching facilities. The main unit uses an internal rotary equipped with auto I.D, activity meters and yield meters all of which are integrated by a computer system. In addition, the dairy unit contains dedicated facilities for research work which includes individual automated forage feeders and out-of-parlour concentrate feeders. This facility has capacity for 60 cows that permits individual intakes to be recorded. The cows can be supplemented using out-of-parlour feeders that allow up to four different concentrate feeds to be fed. Cows can be housed in groups of 40 for larger scale studies, and research on grazing is undertaken on the surrounding grassland area. A metabolism unit is available to compliment the nutritional studies.
The remaining 55 are housed in a dedicated research unit where milking is via a robotic automatic milking system (AMS). This facility is designed to provide maximum flexibility to host a range of research and development projects such as behavioural studies and the development of precision dairy technologies.
The flock currently consists of approximately 200 early lambing Suffolk x North of England Mule ewes that are mated to Texel rams. Throughout the year, the flock is mainly graze, and are housed in January following ultrasound scanning, prior to lambing in February/March. The ewes may be allocated to a trial approved by the ethics committees, in particular with relation to nutrition of the ewe in late pregnancy and early lactation. Lambs will either be reared commercially or be involved in a nutrition research trial.
The sheep unit is used to demonstrate principles of sheep production to the majority of first year students as well as teaching in other modules. Industry professionals also use have access to the flock to support their in-class delivery during visiting courses.
The beef unit at Harper Adams University has historically been based on finishing Continental cross Holstein and Holstein bulls from the University’s 400 cow dairy herd. Weaned suckled calves were also occasionally purchased for finishing, with approximately 150 cattle in total being finished per year depending upon study design. Historically, these cattle were intensively finished at 13-14 months of age. This system had a number of benefits, it integrated well with the University Farm when it came to rearing calves from the dairy herd, and facilitated the use of home-grown cereals for feed. The land surrounding the campus is of grade 2 quality, and as such arable is the enterprise of choice within the immediate locality, with beef production being unable to compete. However, grazing has been obtained at our farm near Telford which allows us to facilitate a range of beef production systems and studies. It is now possible for us to track the effects of treatments administered to artificially reared calves all the way through to slaughter. Throughout this period, we can measure a variety of parameters including: live weight, digestibility, morphometric measurements, feed efficiency, carcase characteristics, and animal behaviour.
The pig unit comprises of 230 sows managed on a batch farrowing system producing groups of over 350 weaners every three weeks. It is a closed herd breeding all replacements on site from purebred Landrace sows producing a Large White Landrace cross as the F1 dam. All piglets are EID tagged at birth to allow individual monitoring of lifetime performance. The unit is designed to allow a wide variety of research trials with flexible facilities including individual feeding for sows, farrowing pens and crates with all buildings having full environmental control. Buildings for weaner and grower pigs can be used for behaviour, welfare and nutritional studies. Pigs that are not allocated to a study will be reared under commercial conditions adhering to the Welfare Codes of Recommendations and the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme.
The poultry unit undertakes growing and digestibility studies with broilers and turkeys in addition to production and digestibility studies with laying hens There are 2 rooms that can accommodate a number of different study designs for nutritional evaluation.