David Black Award winner 2017: Farmers can’t afford to stand still

Succession planning, highly-skilled staff, new technology and improved genetics will help keep the British pig industry in good shape says the winner of this year’s David Black Award.
calendar icon 2 November 2017
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The David Black award is presented to someone who has made a valuable and sustained contributionCharlie Allen to the British pig industry. This year the prestigious award went to Charles ‘Charlie’ Allen, of Oxfordshire-based DC & RJ Allen & Partners.

Charlie received his award yesterday at the event attended by politicians, members of the House of Lords and industry leaders. It was presented by Neil Parish MP, Chairman of the EFRA Select Committee.

Charlie said: I’ve been in the industry all my life – growing up looking after pigs – and I’ve been at it ever since. I’m just an ordinary pig farmer, it’s as simple as that, so to receive the award was a surprise and I never thought for a minute I would get it.

Charlie started farming in 1971 with his father, uncle, brother and cousin, with responsibility for 300 sows and has never looked back. Today, the business has more than 5,000 sows at units in Oxfordshire and Dorset which Charlie still runs with his brother but now also his son and two nephews.

He was a founder member of the NPA Producer Group and is chairman of Thames Valley Cambac which has grown to be the largest pig marketing operation in the UK.

Charlie added: We’re a large family business. My father and uncle started off with 250 acres and today we farm in the region of 7,000 acres. The business has been successful over the years, through hard work and a bit of luck. The key to that success is, however, teamwork and the strength of our team here has stood us in good stead over the years.

Generally we’ve always been very proactive farmers, working with processors, understanding customers and supplying what they want. I’ve always realised you can’t stand still though. We’ve upgraded buildings and utilised the latest technology to ensure we’re in a position where we’re operating as up to date as we can be. There have also been tremendous advances in pig genetics and pig health.

The industry has totally changed. The biggest change was brought about by the sow stall ban where we lost virtually half of our industry. We need to make sure we don’t lose the other half as we go through Brexit and look to open new markets.

While the industry is becoming more specialised we should ensure we put ourselves in the strongest position possible to compete in the global market. Going forwards, the important point is that whatever we do, we need to do it well.

For more information on this year's David Black Award winner, click here

AHDB report

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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