Online learning tools help the Powys farming family thrive

Beccie Williams is a wife, mother of three young children and now also a full-time poultry farmer. Beccie and her husband Matthew took over her parents’ beef and sheep farm in Llanbister, near Llandrindod Wells in 2010. They then bought the farm and are now business partners in the 280-acre property where they keep 700 Welsh mules, a herd of 30 cattle and an outdoor poultry business established in 2019 and run by Beccie.

“It’s been a steep learning curve to manage and provide top quality care to a flock of 16,000 laying hens, but Farming Connect has helped me every step of the way.”

Farming Connect is offered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales and funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

“I have had extensive training, including Poultry Health and Welfare Management, which has given me the skills, knowledge and confidence to run a new business like this, and I put into practice everything I learned every day.”

Beccie’s professional experience was in the world of agricultural insurance. Growing up in Wiltshire, after attending York University where she studied music and business, she then rose through the ranks of one of the UK’s leading insurance companies in Norwich before returning to Knighton, where her family had moved when she was a young teenager.

“I quickly found a local insurance role that I loved, but with two young children and a third on the way, it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to work full time and juggle family needs.

“I wanted a role that would challenge me, interest me and provide me with an income, but also be home-based and flexible enough to meet my family’s needs.”

After much research, the couple decided to start a new poultry business on the farm. They submitted a successful planning application, set about raising funds, and new construction began. In 2019, Beccie took delivery of 16,000 Lohmann Brown ‘Classic’ laying hens, a cross-bred variety highly regarded as an efficient layer well suited to UK market production systems.

Beccie was determined to learn, alongside hands-on experience, everything she could about poultry farming theory. She trained through Jimmy Hughes Services Ltd, a Farming Connect Approved Training Provider based in Llandrindod Wells. With each course subsidized at 80%, she says it would have been impossible to undertake so many courses without this financial incentive.

“Preparing for IPPC (Poultry) Regulations” has solved all critical environmental issues and compliance in areas such as treatment of hen waste, runoff, water saving, noise pollution and biosecurity .

Having taken a course on “rodent control on the farm” has already paid off.

“Once I knew the necessary procedures and received my certificate for taking the course, I was able to do this work myself rather than paying contractors.”

“Safe Use of Veterinarians and Medications” taught him how to handle all the medications on the farm; when and how to administer them and an understanding of their active ingredients in case someone accidentally ingests them.

“The course on ‘Working Safely in Agriculture/Horticulture’ reassured me that I am doing everything I can to keep everyone on the farm safe, with the course covering areas such as working at height, handling livestock, handling agricultural machinery and vehicles, etc. Continued.”

She says taking the Emergency First Aid at Work course has also given her the confidence to deal with minor incidents and she has a well-stocked first aid kit.

“I am so much more aware of the importance of knowing what to do in an emergency, how to administer first aid and when to call the emergency services.

“This training also led me to consider installing a defibrillator, which we can install on the side of the chicken coop, which we hope could save the life of anyone in need in this locality. ”

Beccie also keeps her knowledge up-to-date through Farming Connect’s fully-funded e-learning courses, undertaking modules on poultry respiratory disease; parasites; vaccinations and poultry manure management.

“E-learning is a convenient way to learn, you can choose a time that suits you, refresh what you have learned as often as you like and the little quiz at the end of each module is very reassuring.

“Having a personal development plan and using Storfa Sgiliau, Farming Connect’s online data storage tool which recorded all my achievements and learnings, allowed me to identify my strengths and weaknesses and given indications on the next training to apply for.”

The next Farming Connect skills application window will be open from Monday, January 3 at 9:00 a.m. to Friday, January 28 at 5:00 p.m.

About Keneth T. Graves

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