The uncertainty for agriculture in Wales, and concerns about future export markets for lamb and beef have led one Montgomeryshire farmer to make sure that he doesn’t put all his eggs in one basket.
Former FUW Montgomeryshire County Chairman Mark Williams, who farms 40 suckler cows and 900 ewes at Pen Y Derw, near Welshpool, with his wife Helen, has decided to diversify into egg production.
The poultry unit, which will be home to 16,000 free range hens, will provide the family with an additional income, as well as offering extra part time employment in the area.
“We have looked at poultry farming for the last 10 years and the uncertainty created by Brexit, bearing in mind that most of our income has been provided by lamb trade and farm support payments, gave us the push we needed to make the decision and get the ball rolling,” said Mark Williams.
“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. The final thing that made us decide where our 3 boys. We are expanding the business to accommodate them if they wish to take over the farm in the future,” added Mark.
The planning process started in early 2015 and after lots of drawings, surveys and modelling, planning was granted in November 2015.
“It was an expensive and reasonably stressful process. Once we had planning permission we finalised the contract, appointed contractors, supplies etc. and the groundwork started in the Summer last year. There is still a fair bit of work to do before the birds arrive in mid June but we are very excited to get it all started,” said Helen Williams.
The eggs produced at Pen Y Derw will soon be sold to L J Fairburns & Son, with the chickens and their feed being supplied by Lloyds animal feeds.
“I would like to thank Lloyds animal feeds for their continued support, Owens Civil Engineering who did the groundworks, Powells shed builders, Connops who laid the floor and were very efficient at what they do and laying so much concrete in such a short time, Newquip who supplied and installed the big Dutchman equipment and Paul Higgins who was in charge of the electrics. It was a real pleasure working with all of them,” added Mark Williams.
Once the birds arrive, the family will have a steep learning curve. Helen Williams said: “We have an awful lot to learn and it’s certainly going to be a challenge. Of course, there are always some concerns such as oversupply, increase in feed costs, the extra workload and how it’s going to fit into an already busy working day, but we are very optimistic about the venture.”