Farm-based abattoir

Farm-based abattoir serves farmers across Cornwall and
Devon

A small family-run abattoir is going from strength to strength
as it attracts custom from farms across Cornwall and Devon.

The J & J Farmers Abattoir at Haydon Farm in North Tamerton
was first set up by the Johns family in 1996 as a side business to
help bring an additional income alongside their established
205-acre mixed livestock farm – but it has been so successful
that it is now the bigger operation.

According to Phil Johns, who runs both the farm and the abattoir
in partnership with his parents, some of this growth has been the
result of reduced local competition. “Two small abattoirs in Devon
have recently closed, and many farmers prefer to use smaller
outfits like us because they feel they give their livestock more
personal treatment,” he says.

But it has also been thanks to the family’s commitment of making
the business work and to the support they have received along the
way from Business Link’s Rural service as part of the Rural
Development Programme for England (RDPE).

As Phil explains, “When we first started out, legislation in
place at the time meant that there were no limits on the throughput
we were allowed. This all changed following the Foot and Mouth
epidemic, when we temporarily closed the slaughtering operation to
concentrate on just cutting and packaging meat. Then in late 2004
we decided to make a real go of it and to become a fully licensed
abattoir under the Food Standards Agency.”

Taking the business to a new level required significant
investment, and Phil and his parents turned to Business Link for
advice on managing the transition.

As he says today, “This was when we met Business Adviser Marilyn
Pryor for the first time. She was particularly helpful in those
early days, when we needed help with getting planning permission to
extend the barn in which the abattoir is housed. We wanted to put
in a new stock line and the other facilities needed to bring the
whole operation up to the scale and standard we were looking for –
her help made the process far simpler.

“She was also able to help us access grant support, which eased
the financial burden, and ever since she has been there to give us
support and advice. When we’ve needed to find specialist expertise
too, she’s been able to introduce us to reliable and cost-effective
experts who can help.”

The new operation launched in 2006. Today, J & J Abattoir
slaughters and butchers some eight to 10 cattle, 45 pigs and 50
sheep each week, employing a total of nine full and part-time staff
including Phil and his parents. While they do supply a number of
local butchers with meat from the farm, the majority of the
business involves returning butchered meat to their farmer
customers, who in turn sell it on through their own farm shops and
farmers’ markets.

And, according to Phil, business is continuing to grow as
positive word of mouth continues to spread about the quality and
value of J & J’s services. “I’m often surprised to see how far
some people bring their stock already, and 40 or 50-mile journeys
are by no means uncommon,” he says. “In fact, our patch seems now
to pushing right up to the Somerset border.”

At Business Link, Marilyn Pryor is unsurprised. “There are
definite limitations on how much income small family farms can
generate from the core business, and creating a venture that
delivers quality and value to others in the same position is a
great way to diversify. Phil and his family’s commitment to animal
welfare and environmental best practice set a great example to
anyone else considering the same route, and two very important
reasons for farmers to choose J & J.”

Anyone wishing to find out how Business Link’s Rural service can
help farmers diversify effectively and profitably should call 0845
600 9966 or visit www.businesslink.gov.uk/southwest/rural.

From L – R: Phil Johns of J&J Abattoir with his parents,
Jill and Walter Johns – Photograph courtesy of The North Devon
Journal