As the poultry sector gears up for the biennial Pig & Poultry Fair at Stoneleigh in May, with an emphasis on innovative thinking and technology.

Poultry World speaks to some of the UK’s top farmers to find out about their businesses, threats and opportunities and developments in the poultry sector.

Rod Adlington, Pheasant Oak Farm, Warwickshire

Rod-Adlington

Farming, processing and retailing 10,000 Christmas turkeys and 5,000 bespoke free-range chickens

How do you see the outlook for the industry in 2016?

The industry is very strong for poultry and white meat. Chicken meat is exploding while turkey is about to take off. The health drive is promoting low fat and high protein meats.

What do you see as the biggest threats and opportunities?

Pricing is the biggest threat as we need to make a margin against foreign imports.

Opportunities are in more marketing. We need to push bespoke advertising to promote our British products.

What are you planning for your next investment?

To invest more in our new and existing raw and cooked turkey products to sell through the Adlington shop.

What do you find most valuable about the Pig & Poultry Fair?

It is very real, in that the exhibitors tend to be relevant and of interest, unlike some other shows. It is also a meeting place for old friends and other like-minded people.


Les Heywood, Hollyfield Farm, Devonles heywood

Producing 31,000 free-range chickens over 17 acres for 2 Sisters Food Group

What is the most valuable piece of advice you would give to a new entrant?

Have a good relationship with the local processor.

What is your most useful piece of technology?

Changing our heating system to indirect biomass heating, burning woodchip. This has reduced the humidity and increased the air quality in our sheds.

What are you planning for your next investment?

I’m looking for an automated water treatment system designed specifically for the farm. I am hoping to find something at the fair.

What do you find most valuable about the fair?

It is a great chance to catch up with people in the industry and see new technology.


Charlie Simpson, Lower Heath Farm, Shropshirecharlie simpson

Broiler farmer with 550,000 chickens reared indoors, and recent member of the Ross 400 Club

How do you see the outlook for the industry in 2016?

The industry has had a good run over the past few years, but I am concerned about the amount of sheds going up. The industry might have a bit of a hit coming with too much chicken about.

What do you see as the biggest threats?

Antibiotic usage has been reduced a lot recently and growers could do with some help with this. Campylobacter is also coming to a head and this needs to be dealt with.

What advice you would give to a new entrant?

Good vaccination and clean water are key to everything. You need to have an excellent veterinary service and a good relationship with the people you work with.

What is your most useful piece of technology?

We have an automated conveyor system that we invented ourselves. This puts chicks into the shed when they arrive on site. It saves a lot of time and means it only takes two or three people to put half a million birds into the sheds.

What are you planning for your next investment?

We are applying for planning permission to put in an anaerobic digester for the chicken muck, to create electricity and extra heat.


Stephen Tulip, Lintz Hall Farm, Newcastle upon Tyne stephen tulip

Producing and packing the eggs from 300,000 layers; 130,000 colony and 170,000 free range

What do you see as the biggest threats and opportunities?

The biggest threat is bird flu. The randomness of it is very scary and we should be insured for it. The biggest opportunity is the expanding local market with smaller independent shops.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?

Get biosecurity sorted. Once I understood and embraced it, I was pleasantly surprised. It increased returns and production and is better for the birds.

What would you like invented?

Something that lays a golden egg.

Who do you respect and find inspirational?

Richard Branson. His autobiography Losing My Virginity is excellent and very inspirational.

What do you do when it comes to costings and how important is it?

It is extremely important to cost correctly. There is no way to run a business without doing this properly. We have a five-year business plan with cashflow and profit and loss forecasts, reviewed on a monthly basis.

What do you find most valuable about the fair?

New innovations, technology and equipment, as well as the networking opportunities.


David Brass, The Lakes Free Range Egg Co, Cumbriadavid brass

Producing and packaging free-range and organic eggs, and twice winner of the Farmers Weekly Poultry Farmer of the Year.

How do you see the outlook for the industry in 2016?

There could be a situation where there are too many chickens. However egg sales are continuing at a significant rate. Sales of free-range eggs are growing and in 10 years’ time there could well be no caged hens left.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you would give to a new entrant?

Don’t stop learning. It doesn’t matter if you have been in the business for six weeks or 20 years, keep learning.

What would you like invented?

The technology that is already there needs to become more transparent; there is currently a disconnect between rearing and laying chickens. CCTV teamed with phone software could be used to make information available 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world.


James Baxter, Glenhead Farm, Dumfries and Gallowayjames baxter

64,000 free-range layers, vice chairman of the British Free Range Egg Producers’ Association and current Poultry Farmer of the Year.

What do you see as the biggest threats and opportunities?

An egg price drop caused by too many eggs. Hopefully demand will stay strong. There are opportunities in that eggs are seen as a super food and are considered very good for people.

What is your most useful piece of technology?

Renewable energy is an important part of our business. Investing in this has reduced our costs and improved the performance of our hens. We have biomass boilers, which heat the hen houses and the pack room, and a wind turbine to satisfy the electrical demand and provide additional heat.

What are you planning for your next investment?

Combined heat and power using waste from the chickens. Currently I am building two new sheds for an additional 32,000 birds and have plans for another 32,000 in 2017-18.

What do you do when it comes to costings and how important is it?

I benchmark to see how the business is doing. As long as you are above “Mr Average” then you can survive, but we strive to be in the top 5%.


Nick and Claire Bragg, Frogmary Green Farm, Nettlecombe, Somersetclaire and nick bragg

Producing 850,000 standard chickens and 216,000 Freedom Food chickens a year. LEAF demonstration farm and advocates of consumer education.

How do you see the outlook for 2016?

Positive, but we cannot sit on our laurels; we need to keep up with markets, biosecurity, and never lose sight of attention to detail.

What would you like invented?

Any machine which does not fail in the hours before chicks arrive.

Who do you find inspirational?

Being a Nuffield Scholar I would have to say William Morris (Lord Nuffield). He understood the importance of going out in the world to learn your industry; through his successful motor company he was able to set up a foundation to improve social well-being.

What do you find most valuable about the fair?

Catching up with people and finding out what is new.


All the fun of the FairPig and Poultry Fair 2016 logo

The British Pig & Poultry Fair, partnered by ABN, will be held at the National Agricultural Exhibition Centre at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, on 10-11 May 2016.

With 10% more stands, there will be over 350 exhibitors, as well as a brand new Innovation Trail, featuring all the latest ideas, products and services for producers to take home to their businesses.

The ever popular and topical forum programme, with a focus on innovation and driving better performance, also provides a great chance to hear from industry experts.

“In a constantly changing global environment, the whole supply chain needs to be working together to help to combat the market challenges that we face,” says Kevin Sketcher, commercial director at ABN.

“We will showcase how working together can drive innovation in supply, nutrition and performance, ultimately protecting and enhancing farmers’ margins.”

To find out more and register for free entry to the fair visit www.pigandpoultry.org.uk.