21 September 2021
When young farmers Dan and Cath Price hatched a plan for their own large-scale poultry enterprise at the family farm in Llaithddu, near Newtown, they turned to Farming Connect for the support and specialist knowledge they knew they would need.
The couple farm a 1,000 acre beef, sheep and poultry holding alongside Dan’s parents and brother, which has been in the family for three generations. With a young family of their own, Dan and Cath, both experienced poultry-keepers, decided to set up their own poultry enterprise, with the support of Dan’s parents.
Dan (31) and his wife Cath (28) a Harper Adams graduate, both knew they would need guidance on their first ever new enterprise together, which saw them investing in a new-build shed for 32,000 laying hens at the farm.
“We had done our research and were confident that if we did everything correctly and complied with all the relevant rules and regulations which apply across so many different areas of farming, our investment would pay off in the years ahead and give us a sustainable additional stream of income,” said Dan.
The couple say that accessing a range of different support services through Farming Connect at every stage of the project has been invaluable.
They credit ‘farm safety’ mentor, Brian Rees, a qualified farm safety expert and experienced commercial poultry keeper, with keeping them on the right side of the law and their farm accident book ‘entry free’ throughout the new build.
Brian provided 15 hours of fully-funded support, through a series of phone calls and farm visits, from the time they first identified the site at Ddulley Bank farm and were considering design options through to managing the various building contractors brought in for the project.
“We wanted guidance on the ‘Construction (Design and Management) regulations (CDM) which apply to all new farm buildings in Wales.
“As the ‘client’, most responsibility lay on our shoulders so this, combined with the fact it was our first project, meant we welcomed the support and mentoring from Brian.
“We were determined not to risk employing insufficiently experienced contractors, who may be cheaper but sometimes come with the high risk of breaking the CDM regulations and not adhering to the essential safe-working recommendations,” said Dan.
Brian confirmed that as owners of the business, they had ultimate legal responsibility for all safety issues for the new build. Cath began to gather all the necessary documentation for a new ‘Llaithddu Health & Safety’ file which would include a daily log of all the site works completed by the various contractors involved and minutes from all their meetings.
Accurate record-keeping within a farm’s H&S file is an essential component of complying with the CDM regulations, as it provides the detailed evidence to ensure that the project adheres to all the aspects of safe working practices throughout the building project.
Brian also helped the couple conduct an all-farm audit of the areas they needed to cover with the new build as well as other general issues farm safety issues.
“It was very reassuring to have an up-to-date check list when we had our regular informal meetings with him or the contractors.
“Our entry-free ‘Farm Accidents’ book speaks for itself and we know we’ve done all we can to keep everyone involved as safe as possible, not just during the building phases but long term too.” says Cath, who also tapped into Farming Connect training on H&S, cash-flow management and poultry-related courses.
Brian Rees emphasises the need for all farming families to take responsibility for reducing the risks within their own businesses.
“The number of fatal or life-changing accidents on UK farms remains tragically high and there were 41 farm fatalities in the UK last year, which is why farm safety needs to be prioritised by everyone within the industry.
“Farming Connect’s fully-funded and completely confidential farm safety mentoring programme could save your life or the life of someone close to you and all it takes is a few hours of your time!
“An informal chat with a farm safety mentor will help you consider the areas where you might be running risks, and whether you choose to do that over the phone, informally round a family table, or a walk round the farm, you’ll know you’re doing everything you can to make your farm a safer place to work.”
Dan and Cath’s ambitious plan to set up their first business venture on the family farm began in 2017, when they approached Farming Connect for business management advice on setting up and funding the project. Planning permission was granted almost three years later. With the funding in place, by July 2020, they had selected a reputable, experienced farm building company to erect the vast steel structure, roof and walls with all the essential lifting equipment and safety procedures that entailed.
The 30,000 square metre new-build was completed by December 2020 and ready to house 32,000 free-range ‘Dekalb White’ laying hens which produce around 30,000 eggs a day. Eggs are collected twice-weekly from a large-scale egg packer based in Wiltshire, before being sold on to a number of major UK retailers.
Alongside progress on the building project, the couple sought technical advice through Farming Connect’s Advisory Service. Rural consultant Marc Jones of Adas, who had advised the family over many years, recommended that they focus on nutrient and phosphate management planning, making recommendations for general land management and setting up a sustainable poultry farming system which didn’t adversely affect the environment.
“Marc arranged to soil sample the whole farm last autumn and based on the results, provided us with a manure and phosphate management plan which sets out where we should spread or not spread manure in order to remain compliant of the NVZ regulations long term.”
The sample identified lower phosphate indices, which means that the poultry manure can be used on the farm as a fertiliser, obviating the need to need to export it from the site and reducing the need to buy in fertiliser, which keeps costs to a minimum while also helping reduce the farm’s carbon footprint.
The couple also accessed advice from a renewable energy expert through one of Farming Connect’s one-to-one clinics.
“We learned so much in that hour-long consultation and better-informed, we then approached companies to tender for upgrading to a three-phase electricity supply and install solar panels on the roof of the poultry shed, which already cover the costs of lighting and temperature control.
Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales, and funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
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