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Smallholder Training Courses

At South Yeo Farm East we have developed a number of affordable practical one- day training courses for smallholders covering a range of smallholding related topics from keeping your first birds or livestock to managing the land. We know that starting out on your smallholding dream can be daunting so why not come along for a fun and relaxed day to gain a little confidence before launching into keeping your first livestock or digging a pond? Courses have been run at the farm now since 2006 and we always welcome suggestions for new topics; if we cannot run one ourselves, we will find someone who can! If the dates don’t suit or you have a group, do contact us and we can put on additional dates. All courses involve a mix of both practical hands on and classroom sessions in our newly restored cob barn training facility.  We limit numbers to 10 places to allow lots of space and opportunity to ask questions throughout.

Private tutored lambing days
Would you like to spend a day with us in the lambing shed and get hands on with lambing? Come and learn all the lambing basics and help with a day's work during lambing in either February or April. 10:00am-5:00pm including home cooked lunch and refreshments. If our scheduled dates below don't suit, we would be happy to run a private course just for you. Dates available by arrangement. Contact us to book your private date, just you & us & the sheep. £150/person or £200/couple. Tel: 01837 810274.

The new training room

We deliver most of the courses ourselves: Gillian draws on her experience having grown up on a smallholding, managing the farm livestock and she also worked for 7 years as a Farm and Rivers advisor for the Westcountry Rivers Trust where she delivered environmental training courses. Ian has a lifetime’s experience from growing up on the farm with his family and seemingly had his hands permanently inside various bits of machinery! In addition, he is a professional audio engineer and we therefore also offer a couple of courses on Audio Systems for those who need help managing sound systems in their halls, churches and venues.
Over the last couple of years an increasing number of people have begun to offer smallholder training but there is currently no certification system for delivering such courses, so how can you be sure the quality of the material we deliver is up to the high standard you would expect?

  1. We regularly deliver a number of our courses for the Devon Association of Smallholders (DASH). Each of these course attendees submits feedback to the DASH Training Co-ordinator who monitors the tutor’s delivery, content and general effectiveness - we wouldn’t be asked again if we weren’t getting it right!
  2. Similarly, we deliver courses for Duchy College of Agriculture; the attendees also submit formal feedback to the College.
  3. We have our courses critically vetted by other experienced sheep / pig / poultry keeping friends to ensure content is up to standard - they are not shy in telling us what they think…
  4. Finally, we also ask our course participants to complete a feedback form so we can monitor how the courses are received and improve the programme and content with every course that is run. We have been doing so for 5 years now and are continually updating.
Tractor and machinery maintenance training day in action

All the courses are run at our farm and usually involve practical sessions outside, so please bring clean outdoor clothes, wellies, and a notebook should you want to take notes, although appropriate handouts and a multitude of leaflets to take away are supplied. Teas, coffees and biscuits are provided but to keep costs down we ask that you bring your own pack lunch. For individual course details click here and to book click here

Farmer Dixon @ South Yeo Farm East:
Smallholder Training course schedule
(courses run from 10:00am – 5:00pm)
(£70/person or £135 for a couple booking together, incl. VAT)

 2020 Training Courses

January 11, Sat

An Introduction to SHEEP Keeping

January 25, Sat


February 22, Sat

An Introduction to Keeping PIGS

March 7, Sat

An Introduction to Keeping Cattle * (NEW COURSE)

March 21, Sat

POULTRY Keeping for Beginners

March 28, Sat

An Introduction to Keeping SHEEP & GOATS * (NEW COURSE)

April 4, Sat


April 25, Sat

POULTRY Keeping for Beginners

May 9, Sat

INCUBATION, Hatching & Rearing Poultry

May 16, Sat

SHEEP Handling

May 23, Sat


June 13, Sat


June 27, Sat

An Introduction to Keeping PIGS

July 11, Sat

POULTRY Keeping for beginners

July 18, Sat

General LIVESTOCK Keeping for smallholders

October 3, Sat

POULTRY Keeping for beginners

October 17, Sat

An Introduction to SHEEP Keeping

November 7, Sat

An Introduction to Keeping PIGS

* DASH is the Devon Association of Smallholders. Bookings for courses marked 'for DASH' are for DASH members and are taken through their training co-ordinator. See the DASH website for further details.

Individual course summaries:

Poultry Keeping for Beginners - This is an introductory course for the beginner, covering choosing & handling birds, housing, feeding, daily care, rearing & common poultry health problems - see chicks hatching & a variety of poultry breeds - including chicken, ducks, & geese - opportunity to handle birds.

Incubation, Hatching & Rearing Poultry - If you’ve kept poultry for a while & now want to start hatching & rearing your own young birds, this course is for you. We cover selecting eggs for hatching, storage, setting eggs, incubation by incubator or broody, the hatching process, brooding, feeding & rearing young birds. A natural follow-on to ‘Poultry Keeping for Beginners’

An Introduction to Keeping Pigs - Beginners guide to choosing, handling, feeding, housing, managing and transporting pigs. Will also cover current regulations, sending your pigs off for meat and breeding - pigs of various ages on view  

An Introduction to Sheep Keeping - A beginner’s guide to sheep keeping including, current regulations, choosing a breed, feeding, annual management, handling, health problems -  touches on lambing but this is covered in greater depth in our Lambing course

Lambing - A day spent looking at lambing from preparing the ewe & ram for tupping, care of the in-lamb ewe, essential lambing kit, routine lambing, potential problems with lambing/ewe/lambs, to follow-on lamb care - ewes & lambs to view and handle

Sheep Handling – Intended as a follow on to our popular Sheep Keeping course, this day will be spent entirely outside/in the sheep shed helping moving, weaning, turning, trimming, assessing, tagging sheep and more!

Introduction to Keeping Sheep & Goats  *(NEW COURSE for 2020) – This taster day will give you a good overview of what is required to keep both Sheep & Goats, their commonalities and differences. We will cover legalities, handling, general management, housing, feeding, breeding, health care issues and more

An Introduction to Keeping CATTLE *(NEW COURSE FOR 2020) – By popular request we have added this new course, this day will give you an in-depth understanding of the requirements for keeping cattle on your holding. We will look at cattle handling systems, moving and managing cattle, veterinary issues, breeding, feeding and legal responsibilities

General LIVESTOCK Keeping for smallholders
- An introductory livestock course for those trying to decide what animals might suit them on their smallholding. We will look at the legalities and practicalities of keeping: chicken, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, pigs and cattle.

Land Management - You have just taken on your smallholding & want to know how to look after your land. We cover grassland management from topping, harrowing, rolling, rotations, manure management, soils, pest & weed control, hedges, ditches & watercourses, conservation & field drainage. A farm walk & practical sessions looking at different types of tools & machinery in action.
Tractor & machinery maintenance - A course for beginners, covering basic maintenance of simple tractors and the most common farm machinery - bring your overalls and prepare to get stuck in! Just in time for hay making…

How to book:
To reserve a place on any of our courses, please send details of your name, address, telephone number, email (for confirmation, agenda, directions etc.), and payment by BACS or a cheque for £70/person including VAT (accompanied children under age 16, £45; Double bookings £135 for 2 people booking together on the same course) made payable to ‘South Yeo Farm East’ to our address below indicating which course it is for (we can give you bank details for an on-line transfer). We will acknowledge your booking upon receipt and send details of any special requirements or equipment you may need to bring. Your details will be held in confidence and will NOT be passed on to any third parties.

Cancellation policy: Bookings are for the named person/s only and are taken on a first come first served basis. We may run a waiting list for some courses or put on additional dates if demand is high. Should you need to cancel please let us know as soon as possible and we can re-book you on an alternative date or refund you. Cancellations received within 2 weeks of the course date will be refunded at 50% of the fee received; We regret we are not able to refund cancellations received within 24 hours of the course date. We rarely have to cancel a course but reserve the right to do so (with full refund or re-booking) should outside circumstances force such a decision. Although the training room is wheelchair accessible, unfortunately the farm is not easily navigable. Regrettably we cannot allow dogs to come along on training days as we have livestock running loose & 3 territorial border collies

Accommodation for Courses
We are unable to offer accommodation but if you are interested in attending a course and are coming some distance, some local B&Bs are listed on our links page for your convenience.

Don’t just take our word for it, here is what some past participants have said about our courses:

Poultry keeping:
“ Great day. Really good value for money. Amazed at how much we managed to get through in one day. “

“ A most interesting day and I feel better informed and more able to look after my ducks, geese and chickens. Even small things like cleaning out houses - things people don’t think to tell you about were covered “

“ It was a fantastic day - well run and really helpful tutor “

“ Very enjoyable & highly informative. Fantastic value. To be recommended to friends “

Introduction to Keeping Sheep:
“ Perfect course for us! Felt that we could ask any questions without feeling silly. Great to get hands on - even if they were a bit wet! “

Tractor & machinery maintenance:
“ As a tractor ‘novice’ I felt it was delivered at the right level. It has increased my confidence “

Living willow structures:
“ A bit of a wet day but we all enjoyed ourselves and had a good mix of theory and hands-on“

Willow course attendees standing proudly by their newly created arbour

So what’s keeping you? Why not come along to a course and learn in a friendly relaxed environment how to take the first steps in keeping livestock and more!

Coming soon: Training room hire
Over the last few years we have been converting a traditional cob barn in our farmyard as a focal point to use for the training days. Now completed we hope to offer it for hire to groups of up to 12 in number that wish to get away for small conferences, away days, training and meetings where they will not easily be disturbed by the outside world. Owing to the thick walled cob construction mobile reception inside is limited! All the usual conference facilities will be available such as an overhead data projector, flip charts and pads, and refreshments. If interested in using this space, please contact us and we can tell you more.

Courses we don’t offer but that are relevant to what we do and may be of interest to you:

Course title

Contact person/organisation

Introduction to Smallholding

Our neighbours across the road at South Yeo Farm West

Cattle for the Smallholder

The Magdalen Project

Bee Keeping

Dan Basterfield, British Bee Keppers Association, Honiton