S A & D E Dixon

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from S A & D E Dixon is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


Director Stephen Dixon and
Eddie the cockerel
House 3 pullet rearing unit
Originally established as a rearing farm for broiler
chickens, SA & DE Dixon Ltd have since expanded into
supplying other farms with all of the products they
require to function. Their own experience of trying to source
these products led them to find a niche in the market and they
now cater for farms from Bristol to Pontefract. As they are
licensed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs to transport and store used chemical containers, they
are able to provide a complete service for their clients, picking
up used packaging as they drop off their replacements. Director
Stephen Dixon discusses how the company has grown and how
their rural location can present administrative challenges.
Our company has two main roles: rearing female chickens and supplying poultry
farms with all the products they require to function on a day-to-day basis. On the
rearing side, we take day-old chickens and raise them until they are 16 weeks old
before sending them to free-range laying farms. We usually have around 80,000
chickens at any one time. We bought the farm in 1996 before expanding into
product supply in 1998.
While rearing chickens, we identified a gap in the market. As we had to buy all of
these products to support our own business, we understood the challenges that
this entailed. We struggled to source what we needed locally and decided we could
fill this requirement and so began providing farms in our area with these goods.
The management of the company is split between myself and my daughter, who
»Director: Stephen Dixon
»Farm established in 1996, with
the supply business coming in
»Based in Shropshire
»Services: Chick rearing and
farm supply
»No. of employees: 5
SA & DE Dixon
Highlighting best practice
handles the day-to-day operations.
We already had links with local farms,
which sustained this growing business,
and the number of new farms that
have been built in the last ten years has
served to propel this growth forward.
A commitment to free range
Pullet production is the backbone
of our rearing business. We employ
a poultry manager who oversees
our daily processes and ensures that
all of our chickens are raised to the
current free-range standards. This
part of the business has grown and
we constructed a third shed, holding
26,000 chickens, in 2000. We are
looking to expand this further,
increasing our capacity, but it is
particularly difficult to achieve planning
consent in Shropshire.
Our product supply arm has expanded
rapidly, increasing by around 15 to 20
per cent every year. We support this by
sponsoring certain products and events
to raise our profile. One of the key
elements of our product supply is the
breadth of our service: we keep stock,
supply whatever customers need and
collect product containers when they
are empty. This is particularly important
for the disinfectant containers we
supply and we are approved by the
Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs to store and transport
these containers. This means we are
able to provide our customers with
tickets that prove their containers were
disposed of properly and recycled.
This dual service allows us to provide
for all the needs of our customers
while making our processes more
efficient: when we deliver new orders,
we collect the used goods. Once we
gain customers, we retain them for a
long time and many of our customers
have been with us since our inception,
meaning we often work with the
second generation of clients’ families.
Understanding what farms
These relationships are supported
by our understanding of the farms’
needs: having our own farm gives
us knowledge of the up-to-date
requirements of the sector and builds
trust with our customers. We have
roughly 300 regular customers,
a number which grows regularly.
Furthermore, many of our clients have
expanded their businesses and so have
a greater demand and place bigger
orders. The influx of new farms will
only serve to bolster this further, across
both the egg and meat sectors.
All of our
chickens are
raised to
current free-
Left: Water source
heat pump, used for
brooding chicks
Right: House 1 pullet
rearing unit
We distribute from Bristol up to
Pontefract but the majority of our
business is conducted in Shropshire,
Cheshire, Herefordshire, Staffordshire,
Wales and Gloucestershire.
The issues with rurality
One of the main challenges we face is
the difficulty in acquiring the planning
permission we require to further our
expansion. To reach our goal of having
a total of 90 to 96,000 birds, we
need to expand or build new sheds,
but this is difficult in our local area.
Another major issue we face, as many
in rural areas do, is the unreliability
and poor standard of our mobile
phone coverage. If I were to speak to
someone for 20 minutes, I would have
to call them at least five times as the
signal and reception are patchy at best
and calls are often dropped. This can
be infuriating and can be very difficult
for our customers. This is something
we feel the government needs to
address as reception drops off almost
immediately after leaving urban areas:
we are only six miles away from a big
town but I often cannot use my mobile
in our office because there is no signal.
Our internet connection is similarly
poor. Sending emails with attachments
can often take up to five minutes and
this can cause significant problems for
the administrative side of the business,
especially if we need to upload or
send off tax returns. As tax processes
become more digitalised, this is likely
to become even more of an issue.
Beyond this, there is a vast amount of
regulation, and associated costs, in our
industry. We have to pay a levy just to
keep chickens, everything is thoroughly
audited and although a few bodies
have been amalgamated, there are
still many whose regulations we must
conform to simultaneously. As a
fair few of our products come from
abroad, Brexit may affect their prices.
It will probably only affect the poultry
industry in terms of feed material but
if we are unable to export, it may
become more difficult. If trade with
Europe decreases, and trade with the
US increases, we may see the market
become flooded with US chlorinated
chicken, which is cheaper, but far less
bio-secure and ethical.
As we look ahead, we are targeting
expansion on both sides of the
business. On the product distribution
side, there is large potential for growth
and we have acquired a small supplier,
which will allow us to expand into
Derbyshire. In the last two years, we
have also taken on a small supply
business, providing beef and sheep
consumables. Beyond this, we have
bought a site in Ludlow where we
can store our products, allowing our
delivery to become more efficient.
With these steps having been taken,
and the targeting of further expansion
going forward, we feel confident
about the future.
We have
roughly 300
customers, a
number that
Distribution of water to
and from the heat pump


This article was sponsored by S A & D E Dixon. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.