Two local poultry farmers have scooped prestigious awards at this year’s Balmoral Show.
Ballygawley farmer, Daniel Maxwell, has been crowned the regional runner up in the Young Producer category of the awards.
Having grown up on his family’s farm, Daniel would spend evenings and weekends helping his father and grandfather with cattle, sheep and hens.
After three years at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Daniel took on his grandfather’s poultry business and redeveloped it; refurbishing existing hen housing to accommodate the rearing of juvenile hens for Skea Eggs.
Daniel’s enterprise now consists of two specialist hen rearing houses and he has demonstrated his ability to rear high quality birds, with good bodyweights.
“At just 23 years of age, Daniel was able to take on his grandfather’s poultry enterprise and develop a side of the poultry business that his family had never explored,” explained Dale Shaw, from Skea Eggs, who nominated Daniel in the M&S awards.
“With little help, he was able to refurbish his grandfather’s existing hen houses with new lighting, wiring, drinking lines and ventilation systems to ensure a high-performance environment for the young birds in his care, that would also help maintain high welfare standards. He is always thinking of new ways to get the best out of his hen houses and it is great to see a young, enthusiastic farmer taking such an interest in rearing juvenile hens, which is a vital part of the poultry industry, but one that is often overlooked. Daniel just doesn’t stand still and is always looking to the future. He already has plans in place for a third rearing house and his interest in poultry continues to grow and grow.”
Free-range egg producer, Barry Hayes from Dungannon, was also announced as the regional runner up in the Award for Excellence.
Barry has been involved in the poultry industry for most of his life and was already rearing a large number of young hens for Skea Eggs before taking the decision last year to develop a brand-new free-range egg enterprise. He was instrumental in researching and overseeing the development of two new free-range hen houses on his farm; ensuring that they were built to exacting standards, so that hens would not only produce excellent quality eggs, but also enjoy the best levels of animal welfare.
“Barry took delivery of his first batch of free-range hens last autumn and his birds are producing eggs of the highest quality,” said Ruth Bleakly, from Skea Eggs, who nominated Barry for the award. “He runs a number of different poultry units, but manages them all with a brilliant attention to detail; employing three full-time members of staff and implementing the most recent, technical advice, to help maintain the high levels of bird welfare across his sites.
“When developing the new free-range side of his business, no area of bird welfare or performance was overlooked and he has created a site worthy of being a showcase example within the industry. Although he has been involved in poultry throughout his life, Barry has shown great initiative in this new venture, which highlights his ambition and passion for the industry.”
Praising Barry, Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S, said: “It is great to hear about the drive that Barry has, and his lifelong involvement in the poultry industry. He is a dedicated and knowledgeable producer, and the emphasis that he places on the importance of bird welfare should be highly commended.”
The M&S Select Farm Awards are held annually to celebrate producers in the M&S supply base and the awards are open to all farmers and growers that supply M&S. The awards have three categories; the Innovation Award recognises producers pushing the boundaries in their sector, the Young Producer award champions young, forward thinking individuals and the Award for Excellence focuses on producers that have demonstrated all-round outstanding performance in their sector.
As regional runners up in the M&S Select Farm Awards, Daniel and Barry were each presented with a certificate of achievement at an official awards presentation on the M&S stand during this year’s Balmoral Show.