A FARM in rural Herefordshire has become the first in the country to reach a big landmark in the poultry farming industry.

Wellington Farm near Bromyard, is run by son Nick Panniers and father Allan and for the past 10 years they have been involved in poultry farming.

Earlier this year they received a plaque for managing the first commercial UK flock of free range Dekalb White birds to produce 500 eggs per bird, over a 100-week cycle.

“I think we were the first ones to do it in this country, I think it’s quite common in Holland and Germany I’m led to believe, but we’re the first ones to achieve it in this country,” Allan said.

“We’ve kept the same variety of hens and they’re performing equally as well, maybe slightly better, than the last lot but it’s early days yet.

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“The last flock was the first flock of white birds we had, but we’ve been doing the job for 10 years now. We’re as big as we can go with the land we’ve got.”

Jeroen Visscher, director of layer research and development at Hendrix Genetics joined representatives from feed company Country Fresh Pullets and Joice and Hill, the company’s UK arm, at Wellington Farm to celebrate the landmark in UK poultry.

It’s these achievements which the Hereford Times has been celebrating in the #BackingHerefordshireFarming campaign, with farmers one of the industries battling on through the coronavirus lockdown.

Congratulating Nick Panniers, Jeroen Visscher said: “It is fantastic to see the results of our breeding programme translating into commercial success.”

Nick Panniers, who runs the farm with help from his dad Nick and wife Gill, said it had been a team effort and that it was really his father Allan who should be receiving the award.

They are also supported by stockpersons Gary Morgan and Jackie Dorrington, with Ed Parker providing farm support.

“White birds perform extremely well in free range and it is important to note that the longer cycles, feed efficiency and behavioural traits combine to make white birds the low carbon footprint and high welfare option,” he said.

The Panniers family had been running a mixed arable farm at Bishop’s Frome when Nick returned from Harper Adams Agricultural College. On his return, the family decided to invest in poultry farming.

The first flock of 16,000 brown layers came in 2010 and working in partnership with Lloyds feed company, the eggs from the initial flocks were managed to conform to egg specialist Stonegate’s standards for high Omega 3 ‘intelligent eggs’.

New houses were then built in 2015 and 2018 bringing the total capacity to 64,000 birds across four houses. In 2018 the family was offered the new contract option by Stonegate and made the change from brown birds to white.

“The experience of working with white birds is very different to a brown bird,” Nick added.

“They are individuals, intelligent and they pick things up quickly, they like to be by themselves.

“Because they are initially flighty it can make weighing and stock management a challenge, but we have learnt to overcome this by weighing before lights on.

“The extra effort is worth it, the birds respond well to good training and floor eggs are low.”