By Matt Donald, pig & poultry farmer, north Yorkshire
We have had a busy June, turning one farm around ready for the next flock. Although we have had a five week gap this time, we can turn a breeder farm around from birds gone to disinfected in under three weeks. The time-consuming part is dismantling the sheds, from the pits and slats to stripping the nest system down to its shell for washing, included taking all of the nest mats out and putting them back after washing, in order to get a thorough clean.
With minimal maintenance to do, it has meant everyone has had a chance for a bit of a break. Fortunately, we have a great team and many hands make light work!
However, I’m becoming increasingly aware of the threat to the poultry industry that the shortfall in labour is posing. I know of farms advertising for roles and receiving no applicants, processing plants struggling, which in turn reduces the amount of chicken they can offer, possibly leaving the end consumer with less choice on the shelf. It has had a knock-on effect for breeders, as broiler farmers don’t stock their sheds up quite as fast and thus the demand for chicks steadies up.
This isn’t only a poultry issue, the whole of agriculture has a shortage and as I speak to other sectors it would appear to be a national problem. Wages may have to rise faster in order to attract people, but to do so the cost of food on the shelf must increase.
If the Government is truly targeting net zero then they must do something soon, otherwise some parts of the UK poultry industry could be lost to imports, which would be a huge blow on our nation’s carbon footprint. Automation is saving labour, but we still need a highly skilled and hard-working workforce into to get the full potential of the chicken, from farm to fork.