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Partnership approach pays off for Bitteswell


Joice and Hill are working closely with Free Range producers Bitteswell Farm Eggs, owned by brothers Andy and Dick Higgins, to demonstrate the advantages of their partnership approach. Technical support on the ground backed by the analytical resources of Hendrix Genetics is the bedrock of the Joice and Hill philosophy, which also involves regular reviews with nutrition suppliers and veterinarians.

Bitteswell Farm started in 1956 by Mr. Higgins senior and by 1974 the flock had reached 20,000 birds. At this point they added a feed mill and began rearing their own pullets. Unfortunately Edwina Currie's comments in 1989 meant they had no orders for pullets, so the decision was made to go into Free Range egg production. The first flock was 6,000 birds supplying Daylay (now Noble Foods).

Twenty one years on they have expanded to 85,000 birds on free range whilst their last cage flocks deplete in December. Throughout this evolution Bitteswell Farm have continued to rear all their replacements and mill their own feed, giving good production control and traceability.

The breed of choice at Bitteswell is the Bovans Brown supplied by Joice and Hill. Consistent quality of day old chicks is crucial to a successful rear, helping rearing supervisor Kevin Harvey achieve good body weight and uniformity. As their Free Range production has grown, Bitteswell have been quick to recognise the different type of production problems seen in Free Range egg production, "Gone are the days when we simply placed a bird in a cage & collected the eggs," said Dick in a very reflective moment! Nowadays first class stock is just one of many requirements.

Peter Cumbers, Joice and Hill's UK sales manager, emphasises the benefits of a comprehensive technical back up partnership including nutrition suppliers and veterinary practices. "Our customers trust us to deliver top quality stock but we believe in offering more. To us, comprehensive back up means working as a team with the producer and his other suppliers."

Penny Humphrey of Joice and Hill is a regular caller to Bitteswell, monitoring each flock through rear and into lay. Drawing on her experience and the resources of the Hendrix Genetics technical department, Penny provides valuable management input.

This advice is discussed and implemented in conjunction with other suppliers such as Slatehall veterinary practice and premix supplier Premier Nutrition. The flock data that Penny collects facilitates local management advice, but crucially it is also copied to Primary Breeding Company, Hendrix Genetics. The Hendrix breeding division uses this data to improve their products and offer a bench marking service to their clients.

This partnership approach is a winning formula for everybody and something Joice and Hill are keen to promote; the team has been very valuable to Bitteswell Farm Eggs at a time when margins are squeezed and good production essential.

For Further Information contact Peter Cumbers of Joice and Hill.