Story about Kathy…

Free Range Producer Manager

My personal journey

Before joining Griffiths (and after leaving school) I worked with horses as a Head Girl on a hunt yard for 10 years which hired out “hunters” to followers of the Sir Watkin William Wynns hunt, my boss was married to Elaine Crow who’s family was involved with training point to point horses for Aled Griffiths, my future employer!

I started working at Oaklands as a shed worker in January 1998 and after a year of working in them (which were conventional cages) at the time, I was made supervisor of three sheds “Oaks 1,2 and 3” and the following year was made site supervisor of the whole site.

Originally all the sheds on the site were conventional cages with the exception of units A&K which were still old deep pit units, these were soon converted. Griffiths has pioneered the conversion away from traditional battery style cages to enriched cages, followed by the conversion to colonies and subsequently barn systems.

In building my experience with the business I have enjoyed a range of study trips, from the chick companies (including the Hyline Technical School in Iowa in 2000) which was a fantastic experience, as well as Holland with Joice and Hill, and France with Tom Barron amongst others.

By the end of my time living on site in the Farmhouse at The Oaklands site, I had been there for 23 years with my Husband Trevor I was managing up to 1.6 million laying birds.

Having seen lots of changes up to that point… it was then time for a new direction of my career and I changed direction to become “Free Range Producer Manager” where I am able to use my experience to support the growing producer base.

I no longer ride horses or play rugby, but in my spare time I compete in canicross races with my dog, and have recently started triathlons!

As a “Producer manager”… What sort of things you do within your role with producers?

Well, I spend a lot of my time out on farm with Producers, providing a support role where I am needed, and that can vary quite a lot. Although Free range production has its own specific system challenges, I have been able to share the knowledge I have gained about birds and their behaviour (although every flock has its own particular foibles). Increasingly the weight of auditing has increased over the years for the Lion Code and RSPCA and I also undertake self audits. I like to think of myself as a “one stop shop” for producers, happy to help pretty much 24/7. I really like building a long term relationship with producers, hopefully they would agree!

Key challenges?

Bird Flu has been a major challenge for most producers and I have been involved with farms who were unlucky enough to have been affected. That is a stressful time for everyone involved, unfortunately we are seeing it occur more regularly lately and bio security remains critical, even though birds are now back out on the range.

There are ongoing “normal” disease challenges to help with too of course, although were not perfect I believe we do a pretty good job right through from helping to get planning permissions to helping ensure great production. As Griffiths is a farmer too, they have particular affiliation for producers and recognise that in the past times have been tough.

As a business, Griffiths have worked hard with its customers to recover increasing costs and believe we are now in a position to offer good sustainable contracts… that good for me too as I much prefer dealing with happy farmers.

Key learning points or useful tips for producers to look after hens better/improve production?

Well, I could write a long list… but top of it would be attention to detail, good water sanitisation is a must, keeping birds happy and stress free, good range facilities, lots of rotatable enrichment, litter quality, and environment.

The first few weeks of housing it is imperative to put in time to put birds to bed to reduce floor eggs, making sure you see your birds in rear, or at the very least knowing that the system they are being reared suits your laying set up is vital to good bird behaviour.

"Animal welfare, the environment and good biosecurity is of paramount importance to our business."