School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Agriculture

Agriculture Facilities

Cockle Park Farm

Cockle Park is a 307 hectare mixed farm situated 18 miles north of Newcastle. It is owned by the University and is one of two farms we operate.

The farm comprises a rare combination of arable and animal resources, dedicated staff and modern conference and teaching facilities. It is one of the few facilities in the UK that encompasses the farming of pigs, dairy and beef, as well as a variety of arable cropping and grassland trials. 

The principal objectives of the farm are to provide a:

  • research facility especially in the area of livestock production
  • demonstration facility for teaching purposes
  • viable farming business

Key features of the farm include:

  • C-DIAL - our high-tech unit, part of the Government's Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock (CIEL)
  • Cockle Park Pig Unit‌ - combines commercial and research activity in an integrated manner to demonstrate good commercial practice and show impact of applied research outcomes
  • Long-Term Trial - Palace Leas Hay Meadow Plots(PDF: 454KB) - the world's longest-running grazing and hay cutting experiment, established in 1896, and one of the oldest fertilisation trials.
  • Grid-connect anaerobic digestion - sustinable rural energy demonstrator, part of the University's £20m National Centre for Energy Systems Integration
David Watson, a Newcastle University Agriculture alumnus (1991), joined Cockle Park as Farm Manager in 2007

Contact details

Cockle Park Farm
Newcastle University
Ulgham
Morpeth
Northumberland
NE61 3EA

Farm Manager: David Watson
Email: David.watson1@ncl.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)191 208 2111

Facilities Manager: Jenny Conn 
Email: Jenny.Conn@ncl.ac.uk 
Tel: +44 (0)191 208 2110

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Nafferton Farm

Nafferton Farm‌ is a 498 hectares farm located 12 miles west of Newcastle, near Stocksfield in the Tyne Valley. It's one of two farms operated by the University.

Nafferton farm has been rented from the Allendale Estate on a traditional AHA tenancy since July 1944 with a 999-year lease on the land.

The principal objectives of the farm are to provide a:

  • research facility especially in the area of organic production
  • demonstration facility for teaching purposes
  • viable farming business

It's best known for our work on farming systems led by the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group: since 2000 half of the land at Nafferton Farm is farmed organically, with the other half farmed under conventional husbandry.

The two systems are primarily focused upon dairying and arable cropping. Both also operate beef production enterprises as a byproduct of their dairy enterprises.

Contact us

Nafferton Farm
Stocksfield
Northumberland
NE43 7XD

Farm Manager: Dr William Taylor 
Email: william.taylor@ncl.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1661 832 246

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CIEL

One of the two Government Agritech Innovation Centres that we are involved in, CIEL is a consortium of 11 world-class research institutes developing new industry-needed solutions.

Our role in The Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) is to lead the Centre for Digital Innovation Applied to Livestock (C-DIAL).

Based at the University’s Cockle Park Farm C-DIAL is a purpose-built facility bringing the latest sensor-based and automated technologies to precision livestock farming, and equipment for the continuous monitoring of the performance, health and welfare of livestock.  Secure storage and processing of the large body of data generated can be carried out at the Centre and there are also conference and demonstration facilities on site.

C-DIAL is a cross-faculty initiative between veterinarians, animal and computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

Find out more by emailing NU-Farms or visiting the CIEL website.

The C-DIAL team (l-r) Dr Stephen Matthews (Computing Science), Louisa Craigs (Livestock Technician) and Mark Brett (Research Facilities Manager)

CHAP

The Centre for Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) brings together leading science, research and industrial organisations to support sustainable and profitable farming. It encourages the adoption of new plant-protection products and provides technologies that empower farmers to tackle threats to crop productivity.

One of two Government Agritech Innovation Centres we are involved in, The Centre for Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) provides field laboratories for the evaluation and testing of ecologically friendly pesticides and biocontrol agents. This is part of the Centre for Applied Crop Science Programme.

Four towable trailers have been designed by Newcastle University staff to be used as fully autonomous ‘in-field’ laboratories.The trailers are fully equipped to demonstrate scientific equipment, undertake on-farm testing and diagnostics and to participate in knowledge exchange events throughout the Europe. The ability to engage the farming community on their own turf by involving them directly in activities and decision making processes is seen as a major new tool for the research and scientific community to develop the trust relationship between farmer and industry, these trailers are an ideal platform for this. 

The ability to engage the farming community, by involving them directly in activities and decision making processes is seen as a major new tool for the research and scientific community. It will help develop the trust relationship between farmer and industry, and these trailers are an ideal platform for this. 

Flexible technology and demonstrator platforms.

The trailers can be rapidly configured to suit client- and event-specific needs using some of the extensive range of diagnostic and test equipment for a diverse range of applications from DNA sequencing to crop canopy sensors and UAV imaging.

Extensive support infrastructure

The trailers operate as mobile satellites of extensive agri-tech resources and competencies at Newcastle University.  The trailers are fully integrated with the newly modernised Laboratories at Cockle Park Farm where follow-on analysis and interpretation can be conducted where necessary.

One of the four fully-autonomous ‘in-field’ CHAP laboratories

Services Offered

On farm demonstration and knowledge exchange:

  • new technology demonstrations and training
  • protocol validation by end users

 On Farm laboratory services:

  • on-farm sampling, processing and storage
  • developing on farm  diagnostic tests  (for example Blackgrass herbicide resistance)
  • environmental monitoring
  • precision Agriculture data collection hub
  • UAV  imaging, hyperspectral  and crop canopy sensors
  • data handling and real-time interpretation

 Incident response:

  • rapid deployment of scientific capability at incident source
  • business continuity for lab closures
  • mobile lab demonstration facility for industries wanting to explore new applications for their products in agritech /crop protection
Inside one of the CHAP mobile laboratories

Laboratories

Agriculture staff and students access a suite of well-equipped modern laboratories.

The laboratories are equipped with state-of-the-art analytical equipment such as HPLCs, GCs, LCMS, Pentra, CN analyser, centrifuges, spectrophotometers and molecular biology equipment.

Specialist research facilities include:

  • tissue culture laboratory
  • plant growth incubators (new plant growth room facilities currently under discussion)
  • class II laboratory for safe handling of human biological samples
  • taste panel facilities and test kitchen
  • Various dedicated laboratories ranging from Microbiological to general plant soil and animal work.

We also operate closely with colleagues in other schools and institutes and the University's central scientific facilities for access to other specialist analytical services.

For work with human subjects we use the purpose built Newcastle Clinical Research Facility. This is situated in the Royal Victoria Infirmary teaching hospital and is managed jointly by the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University.