‘Outstanding’ start for first full cycle farm

May , 2020

The Middleditch family are the first of the new generation farmers diversifying their farm to grow free range chicken. David Middleditch and his son Harry have invested in the 40,000-bird enterprise to achieve a new, more secure income stream against the background of uncertain future returns from their Essex arable acres. “They have put their heart and soul into the project and achieved outstanding performance with their initial flocks,” said Jim Lambert, TNP agricultural manager. “Even with no previous experience in poultry, they have exceeded our performance parameters.”

The ‘full cycle’ approach enables birds to be reared from day old to 56 days of age on the same site. The Middleditch family rear the birds in three 1300 square metre houses. At 28 days of age or earlier the chickens are allowed out to range freely over 15 acres of grass where 8000 apple trees and 800 metres of hedgerow are being planted. “As arable farmers, everything was new to us,” said Harry Middleditch. “All the heating, ventilation and feeding is automatic – and we had to learn to trust the system.

We are on a learning curve and when we needed any advice, TNP were on hand to help. “We see free range chickens fitting in perfectly with our arable business. The business plan was very straightforward and very supportive and TNP provides a long term contract with returns related to feed price. This diversification means that, unlike arable farming, the destiny is in our own hands.” Their new investment also covers two other projects. The apple trees will supply local fruit juice to manufacturer Copella, and a bio-mass boiler will be fed with forage rye grown on the farm.

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