It certainly doesn’t feel like spring out there but – as I quickly found out on Friday morning – you can’t wait around for it to warm up before you set to work down on the farm.
When I arrived at Derby College’s Broomfield Hall campus about 8.30am amid the freezing mist, farm and estates operative Adrian Oliver had already been up and working for quite a while.
He set me to work removing a newborn lambs’ tail. There’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write.
It’s not as cruel as it sounds, Adrian assured me, as he handed me a device used to put a small rubber band on the lamb’s appendage which causes it to painlessly drop off within a few weeks, leaving a stub of about two inches.
The main reason is to stop poo clinging to the lamb’s tail which stops the spread of disease.
This was one of a number of tasks given to me at the Morley college to give a taste of what students learn about the farming industry right here on Ilkeston’s doorstep.
Derby College offers level one and two courses in agricultural studies. James Pittham, 18, told me what a great resource the 80-hectare working farm – which also boasts a large indoor horseriding centre – is to him and his fellow 35 students.
“It’s great having a decent farm to study on,” he said.
“It’s been around for a long while and it’s built up a really good reputation.
“Students come from as far away as Chesterfield and Ashbourne to study here which shows you how good it is.”
My next task was clipping a tag on to the same lamb.
Adrian instructed me to watch out for a couple of veins running through the ear to avoid a bloodbath.
Successfully getting through this task with clean clothes, I felt I was pushing my luck with the next one – definitely a more sensitive task.
I left the castration to Adrian – a very similar process, in fact, to removing the tail – the lamb’s private parts painlessly fall off a few weeks after the rubber band is attached. Poor thing.
But these are all parts of everyday life in the farming industry and give the students hands-on experience of exactly what it’s like working in agriculture.
As Adrian explained: “Everything we do here is what you do on a real farm because it is a proper working farm.
“It’s a fantastic job – everyday is different. I think a lot of that rubs off on the students.”
Last weekend the college held a course for adults to have a whole day working on the farm – and watching lambs being born – something I was disappointed to have missed on Friday.
To get a taste of what goes on at Broomfield Hall – a fantastic resource to have for students and locals so close to Ilkeston – visit the Spring Food and Craft Festival on Saturday March 23.
From 10am to 4pm there will be a chance to meet all the spring lambs as well as Jim the miniature Shetland pony.
Admission is just £1. Call Sharron Hood on 01332 836631 for more information.
For more photos see this week’s Ilkeston Advertiser out Thursday.