Young farmers learn from fallen stock autopsy service

A group of Level 3 agriculture students from Northumberland College have recently witnessed an animal autopsy to learn essential livestock techniques to help their studies and future farming careers.

The 12 students, aged between 17 and 20 years old, attended the workshop located at the Warrens Group fallen stock collection centre in County Durham. The autopsy event was delivered by leading vet Ben Strugnell of Farm Post Mortems.

Strugnell is a pivotal player in the livestock community as he devised a novel addition to the Fallen Stock Collection System.

Strugnell offers farmers autopsies on their fallen stock with the results enabling them to better understand the cause of death and help protect their remaining stock.

The carcass-based diagnostic programme is the largest service of its type anywhere in the country, and provides a detailed report about deceased animals. It allows the owner to assess their entire livestock and put in place a plan for the whole farm.

Simon Gregory, lecturer in Sheep Management on Northumberland College’s agriculture course based at Kirkley Hall, said: “This learning curve is a crucial way for our students to better understand why some livestock die.

“It shows them first-hand how better management and vaccination techniques can save farmers money, time and livestock.

“We are able to bring what the young people learn in the classroom and put things into real-life situations so they can explore the bigger picture.”

The young people saw for themselves the devastating affects some diseases can have on the organs of cattle including an abscess in both the heart and liver and a perforated uterus.

One of the student group, 18-year-old Georgia Stoddart from Gateshead, who wants to pursue a career in livestock, said: “We all found watching the autopsy very interesting. It taught us how diseases, if not treated properly, can devastate a herd.

It was fascinating to see the animal organs up close as we normally only get to see the procedures in textbook diagrams.

“We also got to talk with the veterinarian about the report he needs to write for the farmer and how they can learn from the autopsy process.”

Another student was Ethan Parry, 19, from Wallsend. He said: “I learned lots from the autopsy like how the insides of animals work including how bacteria helps the digestion of food.

“Another crucial skill that was reinforced was the correct way to perform a vaccination as the repercussions of doing it the wrong way could prove fatal.”