NI farmer diversifies farm to secure profitable future for sons

John Egerton (centre right) wants to ensure the family farm is a sustainable and profitable business for his sons to inherit
John Egerton (centre right) wants to ensure the family farm is a sustainable and profitable business for his sons to inherit

A Northern Irish farmer has invested in the diversification of his beef business to secure a sustainable farming future for his three sons who will one day inherit it.

Lisnavoe Farm, based near the village of Rosslea, County Fermanagh has been in business for over 65 years.

John Egerton, who owns the 74-hectare farm, is supported by his wife and three sons William, Samuel and Robert.

To ensure the farm is a sustainable and profitable business for his sons to inherit, he has invested in the development of a new, standalone calf rearing house to diversify his interests and generate income.

John runs a 90-cow sucker herd, breeding heifer replacements with the remainder progressing through to the finishing phase.

Similarly, with his flock of 150 ewes, the business breeds and sells replacements with the rest finished on the farm.

Exploring opportunities to expand the business, John, with the help of Ulster Bank, invested in calf rearing with has secured a sought-after Blade Farming contract.

Operated by ABP Food Group, one of Europe’s largest food processors, Blade Farming is an innovative calf rearing model first established in 2001.

The regime was developed in consultation with expert veterinarians and nutrition consultants and ensures maximum calf growth rates while minimising health challenges.

As part of the contract Lisnavoe Farm rears calves for 12 weeks and receives a management fee plus bonuses for rearing calves to the highest standards.

It is expected the farm business will rear 450 calves in its first year of the contract.

Peter O’Hara, business development manager at Ulster Bank, said the organisation is 'committed to supporting local farmers'.

“We’re committed to the local agri-food industry and to supporting producers and farmers such as John and Lisnavoe Farm.

“We’re pleased to back the investment and enable the farm to capitalise on new opportunities.

“John is an extremely driven businessman, committed to building solid foundations for the future of the business.

“The investment in the calf rearing shed, which paved the way for the securing of a much sought-after rearing contract, is one of many examples of how he has continually reinvested in the farm to diversify its interests.”

John said the investment and contract has resulted in a significant boost for the business: “Turnover at Lisnavoe Farm is substantially improved, and the model ensures a steady and stable income.”

He explained how the investment is part of plans to hand over the business to his sons.

“All three of my sons – William, Samuel and Robert – want to farm. It’s a family business I also inherited from my father.

“By introducing calf rearing, which is a completely new area for us, we’re setting out a plan for a farming business with three distinct areas of focus for each take responsibility of and develop further.”

Two of John’s sons work on the farm, one full-time and the other part-time. His third son is involved in farming in Scotland.

He said: “We’re investing now to make the business sustainable for all three sons, and to bring them all back to the home farm full-time.”

In recent weeks, John won the prestigious Beef Innovator of the Year award at the 2019 British Farming Awards.