Farmers Weekly Awards 2023: Young Farmer of the Year

In just a short few years since leaving college, Reuben Powell has built a business that champions high welfare and environmental consciousness, and retains his family’s farming values at heart.

Hailing from a mixed livestock background, with cattle and sheep kept on his family’s farm, Reuben had no prior experience of the broiler sector. He spent time learning about the industry and took a job walking birds at a local unit.

He later took the reins of a 40ha site that his parents bought in the early 2000s, where he set about planning his own unit.

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards 2023: Young Farmer of the Year

Future proof

Since broiler farming is relatively power- hungry, made worse by the soaring energy prices seen in the spring of 2022, Reuben put measures in place to ensure that his site is sustainable, and protected against future energy price rises.

He initially installed an 80kW solar array on the roof of one of the sheds, and a further 150kW system to feed into 250kW of battery storage. This accompanies a 480kW ground-source heating system.

While this was a daunting investment, Reuben hopes it will provide 60-70% of the electricity needed to run the site, and will also ensure that the meat is produced using 100% renewable heat, which should appeal to more climate-­conscious consumers.

Farm facts

  • 240ha owned, 60ha rented
  • Broiler sheds sit on 40ha plot
  • 100,000 birds
  • Family business involves 2,000 ewes, plus suckler cows
  • Former prime minister David Cameron called the Welsh Sheeptacular the highlight
    of the Royal Welsh Show

Winning ways

  • A focus on high welfare and willingness to trial different systems to get the best results
  • Gained recognition with the Aviagen Ross 420 Gold Award
  • Forward thinking, sustainable design of the poultry units, which enable meat to be produced from 100% renewable energy
  • Public engagement, with the Welsh Sheeptacular showcasing Welsh farming

High standards

Keen attention to detail and a focus on high welfare in his broiler crops have already paid dividends for Reuben, after he received industry recognition for his efforts.

The first chicks were introduced to the site in October 2020, and since then Reuben has been awarded a prestigious Aviagen Ross 420 Gold award.

Gold award winners are considered to be among the top 1% of broiler farmers in the UK, and to qualify, producers must have three consecutive crops with a European production efficiency factor score of 420 or above – something Reuben has maintained for five consecutive crops.

The Welsh Sheeptacular

Holding on to tradition, Reuben has also taken the reins of his family’s long-standing diversification, the Welsh Sheeptacular.

Originally run by his uncle, Clive, the showcase of 20 different sheep breeds and a demonstration of shearing was an important part of Reuben’s childhood, and one he was reluctant to let go of when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and forced the closure of agricultural shows across the country, and the Sheeptacular along with them.

When life began to return to normal after the pandemic, Reuben approached his uncle and agreed to revive the Sheeptacular, taking on the organisation and running, and he immediately set about sourcing rams from 20 different breeds.

Under Reuben’s guidance, the Sheeptacular has since returned to the Royal Welsh Show with a full tent of visitors keen to learn about sheep and Welsh agriculture.

A word from our independent judge

“Reuben used his experience working on other farms in the UK and in New Zealand to bring back ideas to the home farm.

“He was willing to take the risk of a substantial investment in the poultry unit to develop a profitable business. Alongside this, he has taken on the Welsh Sheeptacular, showcasing the sector to the public.”

Cath Crowther, regional director CLA East

The FW 2023 Young Farmer of the Year is sponsored by Map of Ag

Sponsor’s message

Map of Ag“It is fantastic to see a new generation of farmers applying advances in technology, data measurement and precision to traditional farming methods. Congratulations to you all.”

Joe Towers, senior account manager, Map of Ag