Gill & Alan Dickson, co-founders of Pyon Products, have a background in dairy farming and calf rearing. Since leaving Myerscough Agricultural College, they set up and operated a calf-rearing enterprise in Herefordshire; kept a prolific flock of pedigree sheep; and developed Westhope Livestock Supplies, a thriving animal health and nutrition business which ran for 25 years before it was acquired by the Wynnstay Group in 2007.
Gill then worked with the Ruminant Nutrition team as National Calf Specialist and milk powder Product Manager, and Alan was Business Development Manager based at the Wynnstay Leominster (Hereford) store.
Over the next few years, Gill noted that there was plenty of evidence from the USA and northern Europe showing that feeding plenty of milk solids in the first 8 weeks of a calf’s life ‘switches on’ genes which protect them against disease, and promote higher yields in later life.
Having reared thousands of calves on ad-lib milk on their calf unit, and a passion for calf health and performance, Gill & Alan already had considerable experience in this field, albeit on cold milk. The inspiration for the Heatwave milk warmer came about after a family discussion about the benefits of ad-lib rearing and the problems of achieving this in cold weather. James, their eldest son, is a Chartered mechanical engineer, and is employed as a product designer. He worked with Cotswold Dairy Equipment to design a simple machine which is reliable, and has no moving parts. The Heatwave milk warmer can be used all year round to convert cold milk into warm on demand.
In 2015 the Heatwave was launched, and won the RABDF Livestock Machinery & Equipment award. Soon Gill & Alan had left Wynnstay to run their own business promoting the Heatwave through Pyon Products Ltd, based near Canon Pyon in Herefordshire.
Following the success of the Heatwave there arose a demand for a good hygienic product to warm up hypothermic lambs. Drawing on their own experience with rearing pedigree sheep in the 1990s, the family developed the Frisky lamb warmer. Plastic was used for the construction, as it had to be a hygienic system which was easily dis-assembled for disinfection, as well as cheap and reliable. The original single lamb version in 2016 was soon upgraded to the 2-3 lamb version on sale today. It soon became apparent that the same dairy farmers who wanted a quick start for their dairy heifers also required a system to manage cows’ colostrum. For a variety of reasons farmers wanted to store frozen colostrum, and this needed thawing very quickly without harming the valuable antibodies.
As calf rearers Gill & Alan had bought in many colostrum deficient calves and were well aware of the devastating effects that poor antibody transfer can have, so were very keen to devise a system which would solve this problem.
The challenge was to make the new Store & Thaw system affordable for all dairy farmers. The large 5 litre screw top storage bag was developed specifically by Pyon Products, and plastic was used to make the insulated thawing tank. Pyon worked alongside a UK company specialising in thermostatically controlled pasteurisers to develop their unique thermostatically-controlled heater & agitator unit. This makes it possible to thaw colostrum safely at below 50C or pasteurise at 60C for 60 minutes. The system was launched in July 2016 and won the RABDF Livestock Machinery & Equipment award.
New products for 2017 are currently in the pipeline!