Comment: We can’t buy hand sanitiser for our breeder unit, and we have big concerns about labour

By Matt Donald, north Yorkshire pig and poultry farmer

I am often amazed at how fast things can change, in a month we have gone from an extremely wet winter and empty fields, to wishing rain on the radar now spring crops are in the ground. However, COVID-19 seems to be another level when it comes to rapid change.

As a business we are currently making a few steps to prepare, by the time this goes to print the situation could have changed rapidly. We have already designated different areas for each member of staff to eat, restricting the need to be close to each other unnecessarily, on farm everything possible is being done to minimise close contact.

The supply of labour, specifically catching and vaccination teams is a huge concern at the moment, with birds on the ground being reared at 13 weeks old, we hope all goes to plan with regards to the vaccinations and moving of these birds at 18 weeks.

We are in a situation where we cannot get hand sanitiser, which is vital to us when we are handling the hatching eggs. We have shavings ordered ready to bed up the new breeder flock coming at the end of April, we do not use much bedding as we rarely need top up bales, but I am aware of shortages in the coming weeks since the saw mills closed.

The volatility of feed is a huge concern, we have a significant amount of raw materials bought forwards which has proved a wise move. The worryingly sharp increases in feed cost, particularly soya, could have large cost implications on the production of broilers, which in turn may affect demand for the fertile hatching eggs we produce. Time will tell!

Through all the present uncertainty and fog, we need to look to the positive, the main one being farming recognised as a key industry. I do hope that this recognition is remembered in future trade deals when all this passes. If as an agricultural industry, and the wider supply chain throughout, we can keep the shelves stocked and food on every table, will this mean the public realises the importance of British farming in providing a safe and secure diet? I think it will go a long way in spreading the message we have been trying to get across over recent years!

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