Comment: Tackling the thorny issue of succession planning

By Matt Donald, farmer, Donald Pig & Poultry, Yorkshire

With the New Year well underway, it’s a chance to look forward and plan what can be improved this year. Succession planning is constantly recurring in headlines and it’s something every business should have in place. We hear far too often of family disputes, mitigating this now is essential to any farm.

I ask myself, does poultry farming pave a pathway for the next generation? We have seen plenty of poultry enterprises built on arable farms in recent years, a way of securing the future of a business and diversifying. A growing industry with advanced technology and precision techniques is attracting young farmers.

Through setting up a new company, a farm diversifying into poultry can place the next generation into ownership of the poultry sheds, while original land and assets are retained in the existing business: a means to start succession and letting someone young take some of the control.

To not only retain the next generation, but also to educate them in business, responsibility has to be passed on for financial decisions. This isn’t always a simple task in various farming situations.

I recently attended a talk by Neil Wilson of HSBC who pointed out banks are looking to land to cash generating projects. Poultry is a great example of this, we all know a well-planned budget and good research is key to securing finance, however he also pointed out the importance of the businesses future strategy when it comes to succession.

Where there is more than one sibling wanting to enter the business, then the possibility of multiple sites, maybe for those already involved with poultry, allows for a division if needed to give each person in the family a part of their own.

This is something we as a business have focused on, with my brother now home from University, to future proof both of our careers, having two separate poultry units along with a pig enterprise, means there are options to divide up the company when the time comes.

I may have overused the word ‘next generation’, however it is key that we constantly think of how to get young people involved, whether as new entrants or existing farms. Succession is never easy, but poultry units in some ways are easier when deciding how to pass the farm on.

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