Scottish farm co-ops’ next gen award split between two winners

Judges at the SAOS Conference said they could not choose between John Taylor and Peter Duthie from Scottish Pig Producers

At last week’s conference of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), the Next Generation Award went to two recipients after judges said it was impossible to choose between Peter Duthie and John Taylor of Scottish Pig Producers (SPP).

SAOS chair Mark Clark presented their awards before the conference dinner in Dunblane on 31 January.

Mr Duthie and Mr Taylor, who were both recruited to the farmers’ marketing co-op straight from school, were praised for their hard work, sound judgement and ability to deliver their responsibilities unsupervised. SPP chief executive Andy McGowan, who nominated them, said this had given him time to concentrate more on customer engagement and strategic development.

He added: “John primarily manages operations for the co-op’s Scottish members, whilst Peter focuses on Northern Ireland. Between them, they deliver the complete weekly cycle of schedule, logistics, customer liaison, movement licensing, banking and member payments, along with sorting out numerous ‘challenges’.

“This involves about 10,000 pigs, 110 members, 11 customers and a weekly value in excess of £1m. John also organises the operations for our other company, Wholesome Pigs Scotland, while Peter does the WPS accounts and manages our ISO9001 accreditation too.”

Related: Report from this year’s SAOS conference

A serious fire in August 2017 closed the Brechin abattoir for three and a half months, meaning Peter and John had to find immediate alternatives for more than 80,000 pigs in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

Mr McGowan added: “This involved grappling with regulations on drivers’ hours, limited haulage capacity, processor breakdowns, veterinary inspections and numerous other challenges. At one stage, they both went out to help a member tag and load pigs at 4am because of last minute changes.

“Each successive problem was absorbed with professionalism and dark humour, with members commenting that they wouldn’t have realised Brechin was shut as the impact on them was minimal thanks to the SPP team. In the meantime, Peter also ensured that the Northern Ireland members were not neglected and the NI throughput continues to go strongly.

“When the SPP bookkeeper left last May, John and Peter announced that they’d try covering the work between them, which they did with no visible impact on their other roles. And when Brechin had to close again for a fortnight last summer due to the CO2 shortage, this was met with little more than a bit of cursing before solutions were found again.”

Both have also continued with their personal development, gaining professional certificates from the Open University and taking part in the SAOS Young Managers Group.

The Next Generation Award, which is presented biennially, forms part of SAOS’ work to encourage, motivate and recognise younger people involved in agricultural and rural co-ops. Previous winners of the award are Rory Christie, chair of the Milk Suppliers Association and now an SAOS board member, and Kate Drever who, since her win two years ago, has been promoted to general manager of Aberdeen Grain.

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