Picture Gallery: Next Generation farmers visit Grenstein Farm in Mileham
- Credit: IAN BURT
Future farming entrepreneurs were shown the benefits of working with pigs during the latest in a series of events aimed at broadening horizons and highlighting new business opportunities.
The Next Generation visit to Grenstein Farm in Mileham, near Dereham, was organised by Anglia Farmers for people aged between 20 and 35.
The 1,400-acre farm is run by Phil Ellis, who has 940 sows producing 1,400 piglets every three weeks in partnership with BQP, the agricultural arm of Dalehead Foods, which is Waitrose's dedicated supplier of outdoor-bred pork.
Mr Ellis showed the visitors the outdoor farrowing huts and straw-based finishing units, he discussed issues relating to feeding, water and bedding, and explained how the pigs fitted into his farm's four-year rotation.
'The outdoor pigs are effectively a crop in the arable rotation,' he said. 'These fields were spring barley last year, but now they will be pigs for two years. Then we shall hopefully establish sugar beet, spring barley, and back to pigs again.'
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Charlotte Woolliams, membership development manager at Anglia Farmers and chair of the Next Generation group, said the aim of such visits was to explain opportunities for diversification or new start-up ventures.
'We take young farmers out and show them different agricultural operations that might be of interest to them,' she said. 'Pig farming can definitely complement an arable farming operation and provide an opportunity for young entrants to diversify.'
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Among those attending was Will Love, 23, who currently works on his family farm in Walcott, producing potatoes, sugar beet and cereals. He said: 'It gets you out when you are usually stuck on the farm and doing your own thing. If you don't get out there, you will miss out on a lot of new opportunities. It is good for opening people's minds to new endeavours.'
The Next Generation visitors also had the chance to talk to Tom Wright, 30, who set up a pig finishing business from scratch in 2007 at Spring Farm in Acle. The venture has now expanded to 2,000 pigs and also includes a fabrication firm supplying curtains and drinking systems for pig sheds.
'I branched out as there was not enough room on the home farm,' he said. 'The pigs enabled me to start doing that. It seemed like the best option, and it gave me a decent income. Building it up myself was the only real option.
'My advice would be to think carefully about what you want to do – plan things out, look into everything and don't be scared to have a go.'
Howard Revell, production manager for BQP, said: 'Tom's is an inspirational story, and he has helped other new entrants to come in. We do a lot of work with colleges, be it Harper Adams or Easton and Otley College, to get new entrants into farming.
'A lot of that has been farmers' sons and daughters coming home to the family farm and finding there is not enough there for them to do. So creating a new enterprise, as in Tom's case, gave them enough revenue to carry on.'