M&S champions its farmer suppliers at Balmoral Show
The winners were:* Welfare Excellence Award - Matthew Workman (Coleraine)* Low Impact Farming Award - Kingsley Jordan (Waringstown)* Farming Innovation Award - Steven Thompson (Dungannon)* Unsung Hero Award - Francis Hilton (Ballymena)Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S, said: "Every day, our Select Farmers and suppliers go to extraordinary lengths to deliver great quality M&S food, whilst demonstrating best-in-class innovation, animal welfare, sustainability and biodiversity. These awards celebrate just some of our farmers who are leading in these fields."Welfare Excellence AwardDuring his time as a supplier to M&S, Matthew has demonstrated excellent standards of animal health and welfare in his 220-head, Holstein Friesian dairy herd and a strong commitment to the M&S Select Farm Standards. Always looking to improve even further, Matthew has recently made changes to his dairy unit: "In 2020, we made the decision to install a new parlour, which has made a huge difference to cattle waiting times and more than halved the time spent milking," comments Matthew.Low Impact Farming AwardKingsley, who farms alongside his wife, Rachel, is a fourth-generation farmer on his family-run farm. They have a poultry enterprise encompassing four chicken barns, and a beef enterprise comprised of shorthorn cattle, which they graze as much as possible. Kingsley is continually looking to reduce their impact across both enterprises. Each of his four chicken barns are heated by wood-pellet fueled biomass boilers and use LED lighting, with one fitted with solar panels, all helping to insulate Kingsley against the rising energy prices. He has also been keen to protect the two kilometres of waterways running through his farm.Farming Innovation Award"I use AgriWebb software to regularly record growth rates, which allows me to monitor livestock to ensure the animals are performing as well as they should be and manage them appropriately if they are not," explains Steven. "I also use it to assist me with my grassland management to, again, ensure that I am getting the performance that I would expect to be getting, and I am not overusing fertiliser."The adoption of technology has helped Thompson Farms streamline its 160-head calf rearing unit and wagyu beef finishing enterprise, both of which are on contract with M&S supplier ABP Linden Foods. "Sharing the live information I gather with ABP Linden Foods helps them plan, as they know when cattle are likely to be ready for them," adds Steven.Unsung Hero AwardFrancis' friend Alistair, who, alongside Francis, had made the decision to start their own individual poultry unit in 2017, was tragically diagnosed with terminal cancer. Throughout this difficult time, Alistair's family and friends pulled together to manage the farm as best they could.Alongside managing his own poultry enterprise, Francis helped with the removal of the hens from Alistair's unit once they were sold, which had been managed heavily by Alistair's dad, in addition to cleaning out and tending to any necessary reparations. Thinking about the future of Alistair's farm, Francis made the decision to rent the poultry unit from his family, and a new crop of hens was introduced to the shed in April.