For Welshpool farmers Mark and Helen Williams, their new egg unit was “expensive and reasonably stressful”, they admitted.
It took the best part of year to get planning consent for a 16,000-bird free-range shed at Pen Y Derw, a beef and sheep farm near Forden. The process was launched in early 2015 and after lots of drawings, surveys and modelling, planning was finally granted in November of that year. Now that the building is up, the hens are due to arrive this month.
“There is still a fair bit of work to do but we are very excited to get it all started,” said Helen.
“We have an awful lot to learn and it’s certainly going to be a challenge. But we are very optimistic about the venture.”
Former FUW county chairman Mark Williams wanted to reduce his farm's exposure to export shocks. Until recently the FUW's county chairman in Montgomeryshire, farmed 40 suckler cows and 900 ewes at Pen Y Derw. He decided to diversify into egg production as, quite literally, he didn’t want to put all his eggs in one basket.
“We have looked at poultry farming for the last 10 years and the uncertainty created by Brexit gave us the push we needed to get the ball rolling,” said Mark.
“Most of our income was being provided by the lamb trade and farm support payments.
“Egg production is mainly a domestic market, so that takes the fear of having to export away.
“Originally we thought we would be going into broiler chickens but when researching the market a contract was difficult to find.”
Once planning permission was secured, the family finalised the supply-delivery contracts and appointed builders. Owens Civil Engineering began the groundwork last summer last year. Connops laid the floor, Powells erected the shed and Newquip installed the big Dutchman packing equipment. Chickens and their feed are being supplied by Oswestry’s Lloyds Animal Feeds, with the eggs sold to LJ Fairburns & Son.
As well as giving the family an extra income, the laying unit will offer additional part-time work in the area. But for Mark, the critical incentive was the future of their three boys. “We are expanding the business to accommodate them if they wish to take over the farm in the future,” he said.
Mark and Helen Williams (pictured) with their suppliers, from left, Paul Higgins from PS Higgins Electrical, Steve Braithwaite from Newquip, Tom Davies from Lloyds Animal Feeds and Jason Powell from Powell & Co shed builders.
Artice coutesy of Daily Post