Elwyn & Gareth Griffiths
Oaklands Farm Eggs, Shropshire
Sponsored by Cherry Valley
Big may be beautiful, but it is efficiency that really counts when it comes to profitable egg production, something that is not lost on even the casual observer turning up at Oakland Farm Eggs at Wem in Shropshire.
The company, run by brothers Elwyn and Gareth Griffiths, operates the biggest “in-line” unit in Europe, with more than 1.5m layers on-site and eggs from another 32 contracted farms – both cage and non-cage – arriving for packing every day.
A massive conveyor belt brings in a tide of eggs from the laying sheds beyond, which are then inspected, cleaned, weighed, stamped and boxed by an array of robotic equipment at the rate of 300,000 eggs an hour.
In total the unit produces almost 500m eggs a year, which can be out of the hen and onto a lorry within three hours, without ever touching a human hand.
This level of technical efficiency is also evident in the laying sheds – especially those containing the new enriched colony systems.
“We saw the new legislation [banning conventional cages] coming and started the process of conversion in 2002, putting up four new sheds that were enrichable,” says Elwyn. “Now it’s just a question of rearranging the furniture.”
Of course it’s not quite a simple as that, though Elwyn says it takes as little as eight weeks from destocking a conventional shed to installing the new enriched cages and putting in a new flock.
So far, seven sheds have been converted and the farm now houses about 1m colony hens. By 2012 Oaklands will have invested more than £20m in the new units and will have about 1.54m birds at the Wem site alone.
But the Griffiths brothers have also been keen to help contracted suppliers convert to colony systems and continue in egg production too.
By 2012, the company will be taking colony eggs from another 1m birds out on contracted farms.
“We will be the UK’s number one supplier of colony eggs,” he predicts. “This will enable us to provide retailers with their value lines. Without this commitment, they would almost certainly have to source these eggs from abroad.”
New colony cages are not the only investment to have been undertaken at Oaklands in recent times. The Griffiths brothers have spent £500,000 on a rainwater harvesting system which collects all the run-off from roofs and yards, purifies it and returns it to the birds – saving about £120,000 a year that they used to pay to the water company.
• 14ha of intensive poultry production
• All pullets reared from day-olds
• 110 poultry-based employees
WHY THEY WON
• Determination to make colony systems a success
• Leadership in the wider industry
• High welfare standards
Elwyn and Gareth Griffiths have led the way in colony egg production, helping to ensure a viable egg industry for the years to come
Cherry Valley has been hatching, growing and processing ducks in the UK for 50 years. We would like to congratulate all the finalists – and in particular Elwyn and Gareth Griffiths.
• Adrian and James Potter
• Yorkshire Farmhouse Eggs, North Yorkshire
The Potters have worked incredibly hard to develop their independent brands and are achieving the success they deserve in the market place
• Judy Goodman
• Goodman’s Geese, Worcestershire
Judy Goodman has been a driving force for the British goose sector, combining quality of service with a top-class product