Press releases from Countrywide:
Countrywide Board changes
Countrywide Farmers plc, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products, services and advice to the rural community, announces that its Non-Executive Chairman, Nigel Hall, has confirmed his intention to retire from the Board at the Company’s AGM in April 2016. Nigel Hall has been a Non-Executive Director since 2005 and Chairman since November 2007. He will be replaced by Gareth Thomas, who brings a wealth of retail experience following an extensive career with John Lewis plc, together with holding a number of non-executive roles.
Commenting on his decision, Nigel Hall said "Following the disposal of our bulk agriculture businesses earlier this year, the clarification of our strategy to develop Countrywide Farmers Retail, LPG and Turf and Amenity businesses and the recent acquisition of Cornwall Farmers, the Company is now well positioned to deliver long term shareholder value. With these foundations in place I have decided that this is an appropriate time to retire as Chairman."
Gareth Thomas will join the Board on 4 January 2016 as Non-Executive Director and will take over the role of Non-Executive Chairman following the AGM in April 2016.
Gareth began his career with John Lewis as a graduate trainee in 1979. In 2000 he was appointed to the main board of John Lewis as Director, Retail Operations, then was Director, Design and Development before retiring from the role of Retail Director in 2010. Latterly, Gareth had responsibility for £3 billion turnover and over 30,000 Partner employees, as well as property, design and new formats. As its longest serving Director, he was instrumental in the modernisation and transformation of the department store group, including building its multi-channel capabilities to the point where the on-line business accounted for around one third of total turnover. Since 2010, Gareth has held a number of non-executive positions including non-executive directorships on the Boards of Share plc Group, and Shoppers Stop, India. He was also until recently Trustee and Deputy Chairman of Save the Children, and is currently Trustee of TATE and Chairman of Tate Enterprises Ltd., and Trustee of the American Museum in Britain.
Commenting on the Board changes, John Hardman, Chief Executive Officer, said: “Nigel has made an outstanding contribution to the business over the last ten years and we are all incredibly grateful for his support, leadership and guidance during that time. Nigel’s departure and the arrival of Gareth comes at a time of transition when we have refocused our Retail business and taken positive action to support further expansion and profit growth in our energy business. Gareth’s experience in retail will be invaluable as we continue to extend the reach of our store network and e-commerce offering. I look forward to working with Gareth at a time when the business is well positioned for future growth.”
Following the change of accounting reference date from 31 May to 29 November the Company expects to release final results for the 18 month period at the end of February 2016 followed by an AGM on the 27th April 2016.
Countrywide Farmers completes Cornwall Farmers acquisition
Countrywide Farmers has completed the acquisition of the trading business of Cornwall Farmers in Cornwall and Devon.
The deal, which was first announced last month, sees Countrywide take on the operation of all 12 Cornwall Farmers’ country stores in Cornwall and Devon for a total consideration of £6.050m. It is intended that Countrywide will retain the Cornwall Farmers name.
The move creates more choice for Cornwall Farmers’ customers and gives Countrywide a bigger presence in the South West. The deal takes the Countrywide store portfolio to 67, creating the largest store group of its kind in the UK. Cornwall Farmers Ltd will retain the freehold property, with Countrywide entering into long lease agreements as tenant of the stores
Countrywide Farmers chief executive, John Hardman, said: "We are delighted to have reached completion and look forward to offering industry leading products at competitive prices to customers across Cornwall and Devon. We will be working with the Cornwall Farmers team to integrate the business over the coming months and plan to introduce our convenient 'click and collect’ service very soon."
Simon Birch, chief executive of Cornwall Farmers, said: "This deal brings continuity for customers and staff and creates a secure long-term income for our shareholders, underpinned by a strong asset base.
"Countrywide has a deep commitment to rural communities and the combination of greater choice and continued investment is good news for customers across the South West."
Countrywide Farmers to acquire trading business of Cornwall Farmers
Countrywide Farmers is to acquire the trading business of Cornwall Farmers in a move that will create more choice for Cornwall Farmers customers and give Countrywide a bigger presence in the South West.
Under the terms of the deal, which is expected to complete early next month, Countrywide will take on the operation of all 12 Cornwall Farmers country stores in Cornwall and Devon for a total consideration of £6.050m. Cornwall Farmers Ltd will retain the freehold property, with Countrywide entering into long lease agreements as tenant.
Commenting on the deal, Countrywide Farmers Chief Executive, John Hardman, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring together these two highly respected brands to create a stronger offering to our customers. Cornwall Farmers has a long and proud history with experienced, knowledgeable staff. We look forward to welcoming them and the store network in Cornwall and Devon to the Countrywide family.”
Simon Birch, Chief Executive of Cornwall Farmers, said: “This deal is good news for our customers in the South West. It combines our local knowledge and expertise with Countrywide’s national buying power and multiple sales channels, which include online and click and collect services. Importantly, it ensures continuity of service for the rural communities Cornwall Farmers has served in Cornwall and Devon for many years, with access to the same network of stores, staffed by the same people.
“In agreeing a sale we wanted to find a partner who would continue to serve our rural communities across Cornwall and Devon and provide greater customer choice. The deal with Countrywide does all these things and allows Cornwall Farmers to retain a strong property asset base with recurring income from a secure long-term tenant.”
The 12 Cornwall Farmers stores will take the Countrywide store portfolio to 66, creating the largest store group of its kind in the UK. The enlarged portfolio will increase further with Countrywide scheduled to launch new stores in Shrewsbury, Salisbury and Swansea in September and October.
Countrywide intends to retain the Cornwall Farmers name in Cornwall and Devon and quickly introduce retail innovations to the Cornwall Farmers store network, including its free ‘click and collect’ service and an extended product range through its Agricultural Catalogue, which features more than 8000 products.
The new store footprint across Devon and Cornwall will also provide customers the opportunity to access Countrywide’s wider businesses, including market leading LPG Rural Energy and Turf & Amenity products and services.
In addition to growing the store portfolio, Countrywide is investing over £5m in a new IT platform which will transform the way the business operates.
John added: “The combination of this deal and the major investment in our new operating platform will support our ambition to deliver a seamless customer experience across our country stores, sales teams, online, catalogue and loyalty card scheme. Once the new system roll-out is completed by summer 2016, customers will be able to use their mobile, tablet or PC to click and collect at a store of their choice, as well as continuing to use all the traditional sales teams and stores to access our products and services.”
Following a period of major change in the Countrywide business and to support ongoing investment, revised banking facilities have been put in place with HSBC Bank plc, comprising a revolving credit facility of £20,000,000 repayable in full in September 2018 and an overdraft facility of £5,000,000 reviewable annually.
Mr Hardman added: “Both business strategies have followed parallel paths in recent years allowing each business to focus on delivering a quality range of products and services to make country life better. We are committed to delivering exceptional service and value to the rural sector, especially at a time when UK farming is facing considerable challenges on a number of fronts.”
Doddle ranked top digital retail innovation 2015
Countrywide were the first fully integrated retailer to team up with Doddle to offer their customers extra collection options when placing orders on the Countrywide website.
Doddle is a new service located at railway stations and major hubs throughout the UK, where customers can collect, send and return Countrywide parcels, 7 days a week from early till late.
Doddle has been ranked the leading innovation in the second annual 'Retail Insider Digital Retail Innovations’ report 2015 ahead of Starbucks pay ahead app and Waitrose Hiku home scanning solution.
The high placing of Doddle reflects the prominence of logistics solutions in this year’s report and highlights how retailers are still grappling with fulfilment and the last mile issue that continues to give a headache.
It is one of four fulfilment-based innovations in the top 10 and sits alongside Tictail/Uber delivery, Amazon/Audi parcel-to-vehicle delivery, and the Volvo roaming delivery solution in this year’s report that is sponsored by Webloyalty.
It is created by taking the opinion of specialists from across the retail sector that brings together 50 digitally-driven innovations, representing the best examples to be found in the UK and Ireland.
The report is enhanced by a separate list of 10 overseas innovations that highlights some of the best innovations around the word that could ultimately have an impact on the domestic market.
The two lists were then scored by an Advisory Panel of individuals from within the retail industry including Peter Williams, chairman of Boohoo.com, John Bovilll, IT & e-commerce director at Monsoon/Accessorize, Simon Harrow, CEO of Elevaate, Geoff Scully, managing director of Shop Direct Ireland, and Martin Newman, CEO of Practicology.
As well as logistics this year has been characterised by the prominence of both fashion and food & drink. The former category has taken 14 places in the 50 UK innovations listed while food & drink has 11 entries in the rankings. Both these categories are hotbeds of innovation in the UK and the retailers and solution providers listed in this report in these areas are leading the world with their developments.
It has to be accepted that innovation is fast-paced and being on the list one year probably means that an initiative will not be on the following year’s report. But we did not expect the total disappearance this year of the 2014 highest ranked innovation Google Glass, which has effectively been scrapped by Google.
Among the overseas innovations the Carrefour Connected Kitchen solution – in operation in Belgium – topped the table just ahead (by one point) of US-based Lowe’s in-store robots, and logistics provider Deliv in third place.
Completion of the Sale of Livestock Feed and Forage business
Sale allows Countrywide to focus on its Retail, LPG energy and Turf and Amenity businesses.
Countrywide Farmers plc ("Countrywide"), one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products, services and advice to the rural community, announces the completion of the sale of its Livestock Feed and Forage business.
Following the initial announcement on 9 December 2014, the sale of the Livestock Feed and Forage business comprising compound and alternative feeds, fertilizer and forage seeds has been subject to review by the Competition and Markets Authority. Following clearance from the Authority, the sale of the business to ForFarmers, an international operating company active in the field of conventional and organic feed solutions for the animal husbandry sector has now completed, the deal will be worth up to £15m.
Countrywide also announces the completion of the disposal of its Arable business to Hutchinsons on 8 December 2014 and its Crop Marketing business to Openfield on 16 January 2015.
Commenting on the new focus of the business, John Hardman, Chief Executive, said:
'Countrywide is now in a position to focus on its vision 'to be the first choice multichannel supplier of quality products and services to the rural community. The additional cash funds raised through the sale will be used to drive growth in the remaining businesses which the Board of Directors believe have the best potential to deliver long term growth in shareholder value.
As reported in the last annual accounts Project Fusion represents a significant investment in technology to help us fully develop our multichannel strategy to enhance and exploit our existing store network, infield sales team and on line shopping. An ambitious pipeline of new stores and exciting new formats are well advanced with 3 new stores opening by the end of August this year. Our central distribution centre is also being further developed to support these multichannel growth plans.
Uk Farming customers will stay at the heart of our growth plans, with close to 7,000 agriculture products available in store, catalogue and on line, will continue to be supported by a dedicated field sales team. Increasing the number of stores dedicated to the farming customer base is a key strand of the growth strategy.
The Countrywide LPG business services customers in the Rural community with bulk gas and cylinders. We continue to grow customer numbers year on year, with an increasing number being sourced from our Store customer network. The customer base now benefits from a unique loyalty scheme which is linked to our Countrystores. We continue to invest in its storage and distribution infrastructure to provide the platform for further growth.
Turf and Amenity has grown sales over the past 3 years, advising Golf course and Amenity managers throughout the trading area. The specialist sales team are backed by a comprehensive range of market leading products many of which are available for collection from a Countrywide store or online providing customers with more ways to buy than most competitors.
This is a major and exciting period of change for the organisation, there will be plenty of challenges on the journey to delivering our new strategy’.
New CFO for Countrywide Farmers
Countrywide Farmers, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products and advice to the rural community has appointed retail finance professional Julie Wirth as Chief Financial Officer with immediate effect. Julie replaces interim CFO Steve Payne who has been successfully covering the role for the last twelve months.
"We are delighted to welcome Julie to the board," says Chief Executive John Hardman. "It is an exciting time for Countrywide Farmers as we implement our strategy to be the leading multichannel rural retailer in the UK. Julie has a wealth of retail finance experience bringing knowledge from senior finance roles at Home Retail Group, Musgrave Retail Partners GB and Conviviality all of which will be invaluable as we roll out our strategic growth plans."
Countrywide Farmers recently announced its updated retail strategy. The implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX will provide the platform to become the UK’s leading multichannel rural supply business. This new trading platform will allow customers to shop seamlessly across all formats; Country stores, specialist sales teams, on line and catalogues making Countrywide the first choice for customers working and living in the rural community.
The company's loyalty card programme already the largest of its kind will also benefit from some significant improvements, which will accelerate the growth in membership and provide a unique opportunity to tailor product and service offers to individual customer needs.
"Julie has a very clear vision for her teams," concludes Mr Hardman. "To deliver great support to their commercial colleagues as Countrywide delivers its new strategic plan."
RAU students win Countrywide NIAB Agronomy Cup
Four final year BSc (Hons) Agriculture students from the Royal Agricultural University have successfully tested their crop management skills to win the 2014 Countrywide NIAB Agronomy Cup competition.
Challenging 16 other teams, including an agronomist team and crop science students from across the UK, they triumphed in the annual competition sponsored by Countrywide Farmers, which is based on the gross margin outcome of each team’s agronomy, farm management and agricultural decision-making skills.
RAU’s winning team comprising Poppy de Pass, Elice Willett, Matt Clarke and Elwyn Thomas achieved the highest gross margin in the competition with a 9.78 t/ha yield and an input cost of £87.10/ha. Together with the trophy, they win a day with a Countrywide agronomist, free entry to a NIAB TAG technical conference and a £100 Countrywide voucher for each team member.
2014’s competition was the largest yet of what is a unique event. "It is really gratifying to see the competition attract so many entrants and grow in stature within the arable community," says Simon Smith, Sales Director at Countrywide Farmers. "It is a unique event in that agronomic decisions are tested on fully-replicated field plots at NIAB trials sites local to each team. This emphasises the importance of basing recommendations on field observations and local conditions, which will influence agronomic decisions. This year there were double the number of plots and an extra four sites across the country. Our congratulations go to the talented RAU team."
Competition sites in 2014 included plots at NIAB’s regional centres at Morley, Harper Adams, Cambridge, Berwick, Headley Hall, Caythorpe, Newton Abbot and at Cirencester, where the Royal Agricultural University’s plots were based.
"All teams made agronomic input decisions on the winter wheat variety Cordiale at a NIAB field trials site local to their college or university, with NIAB TAG trials officers applying the recommendation to the plots," explains the competition’s co-ordinator Ian Midgley.
Replicated plots means a proper evaluation of the entrants’ decisions with the winning entry judged on the basis of improvement in margin (£/ha) compared to a standard agronomy treatment, costing £96.85/ha. But the real focus is on engagement between students and NIAB TAG’s staff.
"The teams are encouraged to use the plots as a learning opportunity through the season, visiting the plots to make their own observations and assessments of crop development and diseases - all the time finding out more about field experimental practice and crop protection practices from trial officers and agronomists," said Mr Midgley. "It is an invaluable learning experience."
Coming second, and also based at Cirencester, the Countrywide Agronomists achieved a higher yield with 9.97 t/ha, but spent more on inputs at £131.63/ha. Although Cordiale was used for all the competition plots, none achieved milling standard despite obvious planning by some of the teams.
Taking into account the fact that last year’s wheat on the same field also failed to reach milling standard, the RAU team decided against putting extra nitrogen on and possibly wasting money.
Team captain Poppy explained that their fungicide strategy was based on the team’s field observations. They chose Adexar (ai epoxiconazole and fluxapyroxad) with Bravo (ai chlorothalonil) for T2 as septoria was present in the lowest leaves across the plots and is usually a problem in the area. Their mind was made-up following a medium warning on CropMonitor for the following week. The long-term weather forecast suggested unsettled weather so they followed up with Proline (ai prothioconazole) for T3 to protect the yield and quality. If there had been rust the team would have added a strobilurin.
The highest yielding plots were at the NIAB Berwick site. The NIAB standard plots yielded 12.26 t/ha with Newcastle University’s Team C achieving the highest competition plot yield, but also the highest input costs at £199.81/ha. Askham Bryan College Team A spent the least on their plots at only £86.75, with a 93.56% margin against the site standard.
Where are the winning team members now?
- Poppy de Pass (captain) is working at NIAB Sutton Scotney as a trials officer
- Elice Willett is in New Zealand, on a six-month contract for Monsanto growing vegetables for seed
- Matt Clarke is in the late stages of applying to go back to IRRI to work on a C4 rice project
- Elwyn Thomas is working for a contract farming business
Follow the Countrywide NIAB Agronomy Cup competition on twitter using #niabcup or online through www.niab.com
Winning Countrywide NIAB Agronomy Cup crop recommendation
|Treatment ||NIAB standard ||1st Place Royal Ag Uni Team B ||2nd Place Countrywide Agronomists ||3rd Place Harper Adams Uni Team A ||4th place Moulton College Team A |
|AN ||As farm crop ||As farm crop ||As farm crop ||As farm crop ||As farm crop |
|T0 ||Cherokee @ 1.0 l/ha ||Cherokee @ 1.0 l/ha ||Cherokee @ 1.33 l/ha ||Cherokee @ 1.0 l/ha Talius @ 0.125 l/ha ||Cherokee @ 1.0 l/ha |
|T1 ||Tracker @ 1.0 l/ha Bravo 500 @ 1.0 l/ha ||Tracker @ 0.5 l/ha Bravo 500 @ 1.0 l/ha ||Proline 275 @ 0.55 l/ha Adexar @ 1.6 l/ha ||Tracker @ 1.0 l/ha Proline @ 0.5 l/ha ||Tracker @ 1.5 l/ha Bravo 500 @ 1.0 l/ha |
|T2 ||Adexar @ 1.5 l/ha ||Adexar @ 1.25 l/ha Bravo @ 1.0 l/ha ||Proline 275 @ 0.55 l/ha Amistar Opti @ 1.25 l/ha ||Adexar @ 1.25 l/ha Comet @ 0.3 l/ha ||Tracker @ 1.5 l/ha |
|T3 ||Folicur @ 0.75 l/ha ||Proline @ 0.4 l/ha ||Proline @ 0.55 l/ha ||Proline @ 0.5 l/ha Comet @ 0.33 l/ha ||Proline @ 0.5 l/ha |
|T0 PGR ||CCC @ 1.25 l/ha || ||CCC @ 1.0 l/ha ||CCC @ 1.0 l/ha ||Moddus @ 0.2 l/ha |
|T1 PGR ||CCC @ 1.0 l/ha ||CCC @ 1.5 l/ha ||CCC @ 1.0 l/ha Moddus @ 0.1 l/ha ||CCC @ 1.25 l/ha ||CCC @ 0.7 l/ha |
|Late N ||None ||None ||None ||None ||None |
|Cost (£/ha) ||96.84 ||87.10 ||131.63 ||140.85 ||110.62 |
|Final results 2014 |
|1 ||Royal Agricultural University Team B |
|2 ||Countrywide Agronomists |
|3 ||Harper Adams University Team A |
|4 ||Moulton College Team A |
|5 ||Easton & Otley College Team A |
|6 ||Lincoln University |
|7 ||Royal Agricultural University Team A |
|8 ||Duchy College Team A |
|Also took part - Newcastle University Teams A, B & C, Harper Adams University Team B, Askham Bryan College Teams A & B, Duchy College Team B, Moulton College Team B & Easton & Otley College Team B |
|Trials sites/NIAB centre |
|Caythorpe (Lincolnshire) - Lincoln University |
|Berwick (Northumberland) - Newcastle University A, B & C |
|Headley Hall (Yorkshire) - Askham Bryan College A & B |
|Harper Adams (Shropshire) - Harper Adams University A & B |
|Morley (Norfolk) - Easton & Otley College A & B |
|Cambridge (Cambridgeshire) - Moulton College A & B |
|Cirencester (Gloucestershire) - Royal Agricultural University A & B, Countrywide Agronomists |
|Newton Abbot (Cornwall) - Duchy College A & B |
Sale of Livestock Feed and Forage, Arable Products & Crop Marketing businesses for £18.4m
Disposals focus Countrywide on its Retail, LPG energy and Turf and Amenity businesses.
Countrywide Farmers plc ("Countrywide"), one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products, services and advice to the rural community, announces the disposal of its Livestock Feed and Forage, Arable Products and Crop Marketing businesses for a maximum total combined consideration of £18.4m cash, allowing Countrywide to focus on its Retail, LPG energy and Turf and Amenity businesses.
The Livestock Feed and Forage business, comprising compound and alternative feeds, fertilizer and forage seeds is being sold to ForFarmers. The Arable business, which sells crop protection and cereal seed products is being sold to Hutchinsons and terms have been agreed for the sale of the Crop Marketing business to Openfield.
The Countrywide teams within these businesses will transfer to the respective purchasers, who are all market leading in their sector. The Countrywide Board believes the acquiring businesses will provide long term stability and wider career opportunities for the Countrywide teams as well as supporting them with the best products and service for their customers. Overall the sale of the Livestock Feed and Forage, Arable Products and Crop Marketing businesses will affect around 80 employees.
The disposals will allow the Company to focus on its higher margin Countrystore retail network of 53 stores across England and Wales, and its Energy business, which supplies bulk LPG and bottled gas to the rural community. The Directors believe that Countrywide holds a competitive advantage in both these areas and that the two businesses have the potential to deliver long-term growth in shareholder value. The Directors also believe that the disposals are in the best interest of shareholders and the additional cash funds will be applied to drive growth in the remaining focussed business.
As announced in our Annual Report, published in August 2014 a strategic review of our retail business, led by Berkeley Partnership, has demonstrated a clear path for Countrywide to become the leading multichannel Countrystore business in the UK. The net funds received from these disposals will provide the financial resources to deliver this strategy, including the implementation of Project Fusion which will provide the operating platform to support this ambition.
We remain committed to UK farming, supporting our customers with over 7,000 agriculture products available in store, catalogue and on line, supported by a dedicated field sales team.
Commenting on the new focus of the business, John Hardman, Chief Executive, said:
"Countrywide is well positioned to execute our retail strategy and to grow the business into a leading multichannel supplier to the UK’s rural community. Focusing the business on areas where we have a leading position and where we can generate strong returns is a key part of our strategy and will allow us to deliver enhanced shareholder value over the medium and longer term. The business is now well financed to ensure that we can successfully deliver on this strategy and we look forward to updating shareholders on our progress."
"I would also like to thank all the staff who have worked within the businesses that we are selling. We are very grateful for their contribution and I sincerely hope that they will thrive following this new step for those businesses."
|Walbrook PR Ltd ||Tel: 020 7933 8780 or firstname.lastname@example.org |
|Paul McManus (Media Relations) ||Mob: 07980 541 893 |
|Paul Cornelius (Investor Relations) ||Mob: 07827 879 460 |
SHAREHOLDER CONFERENCE CALL – 11.30am, Wednesday 17 December 2014
There will be an opportunity for Countrywide shareholders to submit questions to the Board which will be answered during a conference call hosted by Nigel Hall, Chairman and John Hardman, Chief Executive.
The conference call will take place at 11.30am on Wednesday 17 December 2014 and shareholders can submit their questions via email to email@example.com stating their name or the name in which the shares are held. Questions should be submitted before 4pm on Tuesday 16 December 2014.
The dial‐in details of the call are provided below:
Countrywide Farmers Investor Call
|Date: ||Wednesday 17 December 2014 |
|Time: ||11.30am |
|Please dial: ||0800 368 0649 (or +44 20 3059 8125 if calling from outside of the UK) |
|Participant password: ||Countrywide Farmers (please quote this to the Operator) |
ForFarmers (Lochem, the Netherlands) is an international operating company active in the field of conventional and organic feed solutions for the animal husbandry sector. ForFarmers is the European market leader, with annual volumes of around 8.5 million tonnes of animal feeds, around 75% of which is in compound feeds. In addition to animal feeds for the cattle, pig‐farming, poultry and equine sectors, ForFarmers supplies trade goods for the arable and grassland farming sectors. ForFarmers also offers its clients additional know‐how and advice in the fields of nutrition, farming and business development. In 2013, ForFarmers recorded net turnover of € 2.6 billion. The company has a workforce of more than 2,200 employees and production facilities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Countrywide outsourced the manufacture of its compound feeds to BOCM, now ForFarmers, in 2005. The transaction with ForFarmers is subject to clearance by the UK Competition Authority. The deal includes a long term supply contract for the manufacture of bagged feeds for sale through Countrywide’s retail business. In the financial year to 31 May 2014 sales of Livestock Feed and Forage accounted for £125m of group turnover.
Hutchinsons is a leading Agronomy Advisory and Crop Input business operating throughout the UK. Established in 1938 Hutchinsons continues as a family business with a strong commitment to customer service and innovation. In the financial year to 31st May 2014 Countrywide agronomy and combinable seed sales accounted for £6.5m of group turnover.
Openfield is the UK’s leading farmer‐owned grain marketing business handling around 4.5 million tonnes of grain every year and was formed in 2008 following the merger of Centaur and Grain farmers. Their clear strategy is to create unique supply chains and return value to their farmer members. Openfield is owned by 3000 UK farmers who commit grain to the business, and markets over one million tonnes of grain for Openfield Network central storage member companies every year. In the financial year to 31st May 2014 Countrywide crop marketing business accounted for £40m of group turnover.
The Countrywide retail business is one of the UKs leading Countrystore businesses. The 53 stores and online shopping had a combined turnover of £90m in 2014. Key to the future success of Retail is 'knowing the customer’ and our Countrywide loyalty card is the largest rural club in the UK with membership exceeding 145,000. The card allows us to personalise marketing and promotional offers to each customer segment which has increased the number of transactions per customer per year. As reported in the last annual accounts Project Fusion represents a significant investment in technology to help us fully develop our multichannel strategy to enhance and exploit our existing store network, infield sales team and on line shopping. Our Central distribution centre is also being developed to support these multichannel growth plans.
The Countrywide LPG business services over 10,000 customers in the Rural community with bulk gas and cylinders. The turnover last year of £20m was depressed by a mild winter; despite this we continue to grow customer numbers year on year, with an increasing number being sourced from our Store customer network. Cylinder sales continue to grow via stores as they are integrated into the supply chain. The customer base now benefits from a unique loyalty scheme which is linked to our Countrystores. We continue to invest in its storage and distribution infrastructure to provide the platform for further growth. The business will also benefit from Project Fusion as we seek to improve order and payment processes on line.
Turf and Amenity has grown sales to £3.5m, advising Golf course and Amenity managers throughout the trading area. The specialist sales team are backed by a comprehensive range of market leading products many of which are available for collection from a Countrywide store or online providing customers with more ways to buy than most competitors.
Leading rural business wins multiple industry awards
Countrywide Farmers, leading supplier of products, advice and services to the rural community, has been recognised by the Over The Counter Awards for their excellence in Training, Customer Service and staff knowledge.
The Awards, held annually at the famous Café Royale, London, saw Worcestershire based Countrywide win four awards, and be highly commended in a further two categories.
Michelle O’Connor, HR Director at Countrywide said: "We are delighted to have won so many awards, notably the Training Initiative of the Year, Multiple store of the Year and Agri-Store Manager of the Year. Our commitment to delivering both excellent customer service and providing our employees with the knowledge and skills to grow their careers is core to our success and demonstrating value to our customers."
Our training programme has been highly successful, and that has enabled us to win both SQP of the Year and Equine SQP of the Year. Without our employees’ dedication to customer service and their ability to pass on their knowledge to our customers, we would not have been able to achieve so much."
The judges from Over the Counter said that Countrywide had shown a clear strategy for training, with defined goals and outcomes. This includes a bespoke training and reward programme for those members embarking on the SQP and Specialist courses. SQP status is governed by AMTRA, the Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority, and Stephen Dawson (Secretary General of AMTRA) sat on the judging panel for the awards.
Countrywide has over 200 SQPs across all stores, who are able to provide expert advice to pet, farming and equine customers on animal health as well as highly trained and dedicated equestrian, pet and agricultural specialists who cover a variety of issues. To find your local store, use the store finder on www.countrywidefarmers.co.uk today.
By Colin Shepherd, Northern Commodities Manager, Countrywide Farmers
Over the last 3 months we have seen spot wheat prices drop to just under £100 in places, and then rally to around £120 now for spot movement for specific homes. Hipro Soya has been on offer as low as mid £270’s for May to October 2015, but spot prices are still trading around £335-340. Very good opportunities have been available at times for the likes of Wheat Distillers, Rapemeal, Maize Meal, Wheatfeed and moist feeds. This is all about being open and flexible, taking advantage of the deals when they are on offer.
What to look for now with Proteins?
- It feels that if the right deal comes along, there is plenty of business still to be done for this up and coming winter.
- In the last article, we highlighted the size of the North American Soyabean crop, this feels like it will be bigger again. In the last 3 months we have seen the projected crop size go from 103.42mmt to 106.87mmt at the last USDA report – If anything reports suggest it will be a little higher than this (remember the 2013 crop was 89.51mmt which was viewed as good).
- The spot Soya market, as already highlighted, is relatively expensive and tight in supply, so cover up to the New Year if not already and watch for opportunities in December to book forward business (May 15 onwards). We believe that the Soya price for May/Oct 15 and beyond will fall back towards the £270’s (depending on location and load size), and with a bit of lady luck better than that. This year’s huge crops are too big not to present us with really good buying opportunities towards December.
- If you have not covered spot Soya requirements, then at least look at other protein options. Rapemeal (Protected), Syrups and Moist Feeds are all offering potential to take some protein at very good value, which when balanced with your forages should give an opportunity to save costs. However, one product that must be considered, being high in energy and protein is the distillers grains coming from the UK ethanol plants – they have moved to a level that must be at least investigated, giving the potential to reduce costs now and throughout the winter.
Given another very good year for world production of cereals, Maize and Wheat in particular, forward cover needs to be thought through now for any energy related products. The market continues to move in cycles, we are seeing that now with milk prices as you are all too well aware. It will happen again with all feed prices. The trick is covering at a time when the market feels it has run its course at the low end, and putting sensible cover down.
- The current situation provides very good potential to look for opportunities to put cover in place through to April 2016. However, with this latest rally of around £15/mt on wheat, leave it for a month or two until things settle back.
- When buying opportunities arise, chip away adding more cover slowly, up to 50% through to October 15 or even April 16. When you have done a trade, be happy that you have contracted some of your forward requirements and concentrate on other aspects of running your business.
- Cereals, wheat in particular, are around 30% down in price from a year ago, this lower price range will not last forever, underlying world demand is still good for commodities, we have just gone through two years of great supply – it will turn, so covering in the next month or two looks sensible.
In summary, in a difficult period for milk production, it is hard to pull away from the hard reality of supply and demand of all commodities. We have had unprecedented supply of feed commodities, building up over the last two years, leading to a situation of much higher stocks of both energies and proteins. However, do not be lulled into a period of inactivity, these lower prices will pull in demand from other sectors such as ethanol production. Therefore, look at your current cover percentages, and if you are comfortable for this winter then fine. But be aware of spot opportunities for products you may not historically use, if you need to buy over the next few months – good buys are out there.
Finally, keep an eye on the potential of covering product from May onwards next year. As outlined on both cereals and proteins it feels like we are close to the lower end of the cycle for both feed stocks. We would be surprised if the next two months will not offer some great buying potential for the 18 - 20 months beyond January 2015.
Ewe nutrition: 'precision pays' says nutritionist
Correct feeding and management of ewes is vital to ensure a successful lambing outcome. This is the view of Mark Hall, Commercial Nutritionist for Countrywide Farmers, who believes attention to detail and precision at every stage, from flushing prior to tupping, through to late pregnancy will be rewarded.
"Silage qualities in 2014 are generally very poor, but as always there is a large variation between farms. Supplementing silages should always be carefully considered, every year is different and feeding regimes should be adjusted accordingly," says Mr Hall.
"The value of flushing or 'steaming up’ in ewes should never be under estimated," says Mr Hall. "Firstly, it gets ewes in the correct body condition score (BCS), of between 2.5 to 3.0, which helps to reduce any nutritional stressors on the system and prepares the body for mating. Secondly, it stimulates the release of insulin. Insulin is a very important hormone in the mating cycle in that it signals to the reproductive system that the body is in a sufficient nutritional state to ovulate."
Insulin production is stimulated by the feeding of high starch compounds or concentrates and high energy lick buckets. "This is very important for the first 2-3 weeks of tupping as it is vital to get ewes cycling as quickly as possible ready for the rams," continues Mr Hall. "Then 2-3 weeks into the tupping period feed concetrates can be reduced to switch off insulin production."
Early and mid pregnancy – maintaining BCS
The main goal throughout early and mid pregnancy is the maintenance of BCS. "Now isn’t the time for ewes to be losing or gaining weight," explains Mr Hall, "and ideally the BCS of 2.5-3.0 that has been achieved pre-tupping can be maintained throughout pregnancy. Care must be taken so that animals do not become over conditioned, which can lead to significantly reduced dry matter intakes at lactation. It is lamb development that occurs during this period rather than actual lamb growth so both energy and protein requirements for the ewe are relatively low at this time, not rising much above maintenance levels."
Late pregnancy – preparing for lambing
In contrast, 75% of lamb growth occurs during the final 6-8 weeks of pregnancy greatly increasing nutritional demands on the ewe. Again, precision pays and scanning is a vital decision making aid when it comes to the partitioning of groups.
"Wherever possible split singles, twins and triplets into groups, to allow target feeding," says Mr Hall, "providing less for singles, and more for triplets, to ensure that animals don’t get too fat or too thin and save on compound costs. Thin singles should be put in with twin lambers and thin twins should be put in with the triplets to allow a return to the correct BCS. Nutrition during this late pregnancy period is vitally important as it also governs colostrum and milk quality when the ewe does eventually lamb. Poor nutrition at this stage results in not enough milk being available for lambs and very poor early growth rates."
The closer to lambing, the more demands on the ewe increase and, in the last two weeks, a final increase in the level of nutrition can be required.
Get the ration right
Mr Hall recommends that farms should always get silage or hay analysed and match the compound and feed rate to the forage, that way you are providing a balanced ration that meets the flocks nutritional needs in the most precise and cost-effective way.
"When considering which concentrate or how much to feed sheep, there is no such thing as the 'best cake’ only the 'right cake’," advises Mr Hall. "The overall diet must be considered. There is little point in feeding the most expensive, highest energy density cake on the market at the same rate every year; if you are already providing your sheep with an 11ME, 15% CP grass silage. Not only is this expensive, but the sheep will become too fat."
"Therefore it is crucial to know the nutritional value of what you are feeding, depending on silage quality it may even prove more cost effective to feed a high quality compound but at a lower rate."
Given that cereal prices at an all-time low, the other option for 2014 is to utilise home grown or even bought in cereals. They can provide a very cost effective method of feeding ewes however when feeding high starch cereals it is vital to consider two key points; which protein source to mix with and how to avoid acidosis.
"Soya or protected soya is the gold standard for breeding ewes, mixing soya and cereals will give you an excellent mix that can be fed alongside silage," explains Mark. "High Digestible Undegradable Protein (DUP) levels will support excellent milk production ensuring lambs get the best start possible. Failing this a high soya protein pellet can give you a more cost effective option if you are unable to take bulk loads of Soya in a significant tonnage."
"Acidosis is an ever present threat when feeding cereals, compound feeds rarely reach 40% starch so can be quite safe in sensible quantities, cereal rations can be as high as 60% starch, bringing about rapid acidosis. If ewes are housed then plenty of fresh fibre should be provided and feeds should be split into small quantities that can be fed little and often. If lambing outside ensure there is enough trough space for all the ewes to feed at the same time and where possible try to split feeds into small amounts at regular intervals."
Attention to detail and knowing exactly what individual elements of the diets are made up of at every stage is the key to tailoring diets to the flocks’ specific nutritional needs ensuring better returns at this crucial time of year.
Countrywide Farmers appoints new board director
Countrywide Farmers plc has announced the appointment of Andrew Webb as Chief Commercial Officer to the Board with effect from 5th January 2015.
Reporting to Chief Executive Officer, John Hardman, Andrew Webb will be responsible for leading the exciting new strategy which will see Countrywide become the leading multichannel retailer to the rural community. Andrew brings extensive experience of the development and delivery of successful multi-channel experiences to customers in a wide variety of leading businesses including Equifax, Game Digital, White Stuff, East, and Carphone Warehouse.
Commenting on his appointment, John Hardman said "This is a really important appointment for the business and demonstrates our ambition to provide our customers with the best multichannel shopping experience. We recognise customer buying patterns are evolving and we want to stay at the forefront of these changing trends. Having previously operated as Chief Operating Officer at White Stuff and Chief Executive Officer of East, Andrew has over 20 years’ experience of growing retail and e-commerce brands, where he adopted a highly customer centric approach whilst focusing on loyalty and profit. Andrew's appointment coincides with the roll out of Project Fusion, a new technology platform which will integrate our existing network of 53 stores, in-field sales team, online, and catalogue shopping; it will provide our customers with the widest range of shopping options as well as driving efficiencies across the business."
Speaking about his appointment Andrew Webb recognises the opportunity in the rural sector, "no one is dominating this space and Countrywide represents a real opportunity to occupy a market leading position in a growing sector. Drawing on the insight from the largest rural loyalty card programme it feels as if the business is on the verge of delivering a step change in service levels to the rural customer. I am excited to be coming to Countrywide to build on all the good work so far and to lead this multichannel implementation."
New Welsh nutritionist for Countrywide team
Carwyn James, Farmers Apprentice finalist 2014, has been appointed as Ruminant Nutritionist in West Wales at Countrywide Farmers plc, the UK’s leading supplier of products, advice and services to the rural community.
Currently a finalist in the Farmers Apprentice programme being run by Farmers Weekly, Carwyn will be responsible for Ruminant Nutrition in West Wales, where his local knowledge and Welsh language skills will add value to Countrywide’s customers. He is undergoing the award winning Countrywide training programme which includes an in depth course at Harper Adams on dairy nutrition to hone his existing knowledge.
Having been part of the Fresh Start Dairy Academy and the Tesco Future Farmers Foundation, Carwyn has been pro-active in furthering his knowledge and skills. A fourth generation farmer, he farms in partnership with his mother and brother. The 300 acre farm, based in Pembrokeshire has300 breeding ewes and 70 Hereford sucklers, however Carwyn is also looking at diversification options to develop the farm further.
Mr James, said: "I am really excited to take on this role, like many in agriculture I know that there is a bright future and plenty of opportunities to succeed. I’ve always made sure to stay focussed, learn from those more experienced and worked hard. I’m looking forward to developing my knowledge with Countrywide."
Speaking of Carwyn’s appointment, Alistair Folly, Countrywide’s Agricultural Director, commented: "Carwyn has the essential package that we look for in a new team member, he is knowledgeable, enthusiastic and has the support of his community; we are delighted to have him as part of the growing Countrywide team."
Mr. Folly continues, "At Countrywide the recruitment process is important in attracting the right people. We are currently visiting with all the leading universities to showcase the graduate opportunities we have. However we would like to highlight that while a degree is desirable, we can see that talented young people such as Carwyn who have shown drive and determination and have practical experience in the industry can be just as knowledgeable."
Countrywide Pet Event, September 2014
Coverage of the Countrywide Pet Event, September 2014
Safety is Critical for Homeowners as They Prepare to Warm Up For Winter
Householders and businesses that use LPG for heating are being urged to ensure all gas appliances have been checked and serviced as winter approaches, to avoid the potential for deadly gas leaks, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
UKLPG, the trade association for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry has issued the stern warning as part of Gas Safety Week (15-22 September), an event co-ordinated every year by the Gas Safe Register.
Rob Shuttleworth, chief executive of UKLPG, explains: "Every year thousands of people across the UK are diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. It is a highly poisonous gas which can kill quickly with no warning and just one of the many reasons that gas appliances need to be serviced and checked every year by a Gas Safe Registered installer.
"It is vitally important to invest in proper boiler and heater maintenance, including portable LPG heaters that may have been stored in a garage or shed over the summer. Calling in a Gas Safe registered fitter to service and safety check your appliances is a small price to pay for the safety of your loved ones.
"Illegal gas fitters can put lives at risk, so always check the engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card, and if you rent your property make sure you see a copy of the landlord’s gas safety record confirming that a gas safety check has been carried out within the past 12 months."
Warning signs that a gas appliance isn’t working properly include lazy yellow or orange flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.
Audible carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted at homes that use gas appliances. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
For gas safety advice or to find and check an engineer visit the Gas Safe Register website at www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk
'Coals to Newcastle’ coup for Countrywide Grain
4,400mt of milling wheat exported to France marks a 'coals to Newcastle’ coup for Countrywide Grain.
"It is very rare for France to import milling wheat," says Grain Manager for Countrywide Farmers, Edd Britton, "and has only happened once in the last 13 years. This year a wet early summer in France has hit quality meaning more feed wheat and a lot less milling wheat, this leaves France struggling to meet existing commitments. We were able to upgrade feed wheat contracts and pay big premiums at a time of year when wheat is hard to move and premiums are under pressure."
The milling wheat cargo which left Poole on 19th August follows Countrywide Grain’s first shipment in July - a major milestone for the Amesbury based team which was established in 2013 from Heart of England Grain and the SM Hackett and Son businesses, both already owned by Countrywide Farmers.
The Amesbury office has now exported 11,600mt at harvest out of Poole comprising 3,000mt of feed barley to Ireland, 4400mt of milling wheat to France, 2200mt of OSR to Germany and 2000mt of OSR to Belgium.
"This is an exciting development following so quickly on the back of our first export," says Grain Manager for Countrywide Farmers, Edd Britton. "Securing such innovative opportunities, good, honest trading, and building strong relationships are all essential as we continue to grow and expand our business."