NWF Agriculture talks headwinds, opportunities as it looks back on 150 years of business

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Wardle Mill site © NWF Agriculture
Wardle Mill site © NWF Agriculture

Related tags ruminant soy hulls carbon footprint

UK ruminant feed producer, NWF Agriculture, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this month. We ask the company what it sees as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the UK feed milling industry right now.

In 1965 there were over 800 feed mills in Great Britain, by 2025 there will be less than 100, yet in the same period manufactured feed volumes have risen from 3.3 m to 4.3m tons, reported the ruminant feed player, noted the ruminant feed player. 

In terms of headwinds, Andrew Downie, managing director at NWF Agriculture, told us how pressure to improve upon carbon footprint and other environmental parameters will undoubtedly increase.

He also expects to see continued innovation along the lines of methane emission reducing feed additives. “That is something we at NWF are only too keen to progress with, helping to assist our customers to achieve their goals.”

The business fully supports the carbon 2040 initiative started by the UK’s National Farmer Union (NFU), added Downie.

We are progressing well to help both British farmers and our sites achieve this. As part of these goals, we have just launched our Dairy Sustain range. The range procures all of its ingredients domestically and removes soy, soy hulls, PK and maize distillers.”  

NWF Agriculture, he continued, has always believed that intelligent young people are the future of both the farming and the feed manufacturing industry.

It launched its NWF Academy back in 2019; it is an 18-month educational program to train farm advisors of the future to assist British livestock farmers and the livestock industry in developing a sustainable, profitable future.

“We take great pride in doing our research and in listening to our customers, then equipping our NWF Academy recruits with the tools required to help those customers take their businesses forward,” ​said Downie.  

NWF Agriculture: A timeline

NWF Agriculture was established as the Cheshire Farmers Supply Association Ltd in June 1871.

Some 47 years later in 1918, the Cheshire Farmers Supply Association Ltd grew to become a cooperative, expanding its capital base and incentivizing members to trade with the cooperative.

After 40 years, in 1958, following a merger of the Cheshire, Shropshire & North Wales Farmers Supply Association and the Chester Farmers, the cooperative changed its name to North Western Farmers Ltd, still operating as a cooperative.

The Wardle Mill site officially opened in 1980, as the largest specialist ruminant feed mill in the UK. Continuing to produce ruminant feeds, North Western Farmers Ltd consistently grew and in 1988 it became a limited company, operating as NWF Group Ltd, with the feed division now known as NWF Agriculture. 

In 1995, the NWF Group was listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, becoming the first company in the North West to do so.  In July 2003 NWF Agriculture manufactured its two millionth ton of ruminant feed and then in 2004 expansion extended to the South West with the purchase JGT Thomas in Devon. 

In October 2005, NWF Agriculture manufactured its three millionth ton of ruminant feed. NWF acquired the ruminant business SC Feeds in 2013, an acquisition that further strengthened operations and opportunities to support farmers across Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Derbyshire, North Wales & surrounding areas. 

In 2015, NWF acquired 100% of the issued share capital of ruminant feeds manufacturer and nutritional advisory business, New Breed (UK) Limited. NWF acquired the ruminant business Jim Peet Agriculture in 2016 to strengthen operations and opportunities to support farmers across Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland, and the South-West of Scotland. 

In 2019, the NWF Academy was launched. A year later in 2020 NWF launched an online eCommerce store, Agri Express, to retail a wide range of associated livestock products with nationwide delivery.

The business now operates from five locations located in Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire & Devon supplying ruminant feed and associated products to over 4,500 British farmers.  NWF employs over 250 members of staff and delivers over 50,000 tons of ruminant feed a month. 

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