Published on April 4, 2022
Intuition and trust deliver success at Manor Farm
Looking to diversify, Simon and Victoria Elwess of Manor Farm discovered that many friends and neighbours had found the addition of poultry to be a good fit alongside existing activities.
Farming for generations
The Elwess family farmed in Yorkshire for generations, so it was a natural step for Simon Elwess to go into farming and, until 15 years ago, he was involved in contract arable farming. However, long days of combine harvesting or being in the tractor seat, often away from family, led to a rethink, leading to Simon’s decision to buy Manor Farm at Heapham.
Together with his wife Victoria, Simon originally concentrated on arable farming, later adding a herd of pedigree Hereford Cattle. Looking to diversify further, Simon and Victoria discovered that many friends and neighbours, who also combined arable and Hereford Herds, were finding the addition of egg layers to be a good fit.
To scope out their options, with very open minds about the possible benefits of introducing either pigs or layers to the farm, Simon visited what turned out to be the last pre-pandemic Pig and Poultry Show in 2018.
The conclusion was that poultry would suit them best. Simon is the first to admit that the decision was based as much on intuition and instinct as it was on in-depth research, but it is a decision that he feels has turned out to be the right one, despite the significant investment needed.
One of the key attractions of integrating poultry into the farm was that it enabled me to work from the farm, with livestock that benefit from regularity and routine, as opposed to the stresses of working away. I am also able to get help when I need it, whereas contract farming is an isolated and very self-reliant occupation.
New to egg production
Despite being completely new to egg production, Simon felt that a flock size of 16,000 was not enough to make poultry the mainstay of the business. He calculated that even taking the significant investment into account, the 32,000-flock size made the most financial sense.
Placing great faith in recommendations from neighbours and friends, Simon selected the Big Dutchman BD 284 multi-tier aviary system, which was installed by New Quip. Construction of a brand-new poultry house was by Ellerington Engineers of Beverley, with Pell Plant undertaking groundworks.
Exceeding the breed standards
“Following a meeting with Peter Rogerson of Joice and Hill, I felt his support and experience would be invaluable, and so the first flock in the brand-new unit were Bovans Brown, hatched by Joice and Hill. This was followed by a second flock of Bovans, with a third flock of the same breed on order.
“Egg numbers, grades and quality all exceeded the breed standards and the flock have proved easy to manage with no issues,” Simon reports. “Our current flock are now on week 74 and laying at 91%, with plans to deplete at 80 weeks.”
Simon added: “I had a good friend who was more than happy with Bovans in the same system, so it made sense to go down the same route. I am particularly impressed with the low floor eggs and the way the birds move around. The system is easy to clean, and I can get up high and see everything.
“All in all, I have had great continuity of support from Will, who has now taken over from Peter at Joice and Hill, Dave Harris at Newquip, and John Holt at LJ Fairburn and Sons. I would go back to this team without hesitation. I must also thank my family, including Victoria, my mother, my sister and my brother, who all provide invaluable help.”
The contract at Manor Farm is with LJ Fairburn and it includes feed and pullets.
I am very comfortable with the arrangement. The feed quality is good, and the single source reduces administration and makes for good traceability. It’s a great way to gain experience with plenty of advice to draw on.