By Charles Bourns, poultry farmer and chair of Copa Cogeca working group on poultry and eggs
What a month! It started with the National Egg & Poultry Awards in London which were interrupted by an animal rights group, a short interlude in a very enjoyable evening. It is a shame they did not bother to find out that the awards were about celebrating innovation and excellence in our industry.
It has ended with the heatwave. We were catching on one of the hottest days – a very tense day for all – and all worked well. The catchers, a much-maligned group, were catching in sheds at 35°C plus heat. Thanks to our over investment in large fans and our tunnel ventilation, and the due diligence of the catchers, the chickens survived.
During the month I went to the Copa Cogeca meeting in Brussels where there was much discussion about the new trade deal with the Mercosur countries and the Ukraine. The agreements mean that another 180,000 tonnes of poultry can come into the EU from the Mercosur countries and 50,000 tonnes from the Ukraine tariff-free. The total of all trade agreements now means the equivalent of the whole of France’s production can be imported. At the meeting some very frank EU officials basically said that we had been sacrificed for other industries because the poultry sector is unsubsidised, self-reliant, and adaptable and the extra quota only represents one year’s increase in sales. It didn’t go down very well! The Mercosur agreement has taken 20 years to negotiate and will not in fact come into force for probably two to three years as it has to go through a legal process. We also looked at production figures – the UK is now the second largest poultry meat producer in the EU at about 1,960,000 tonnes. We import 740,000 tonnes at a cost of 2.2 billion euros and export 340,000 tonnes at a value of 404 million euros. 73% of our imports come from Europe.
It was also interesting to learn that the Broiler Ask production in the Netherlands has peaked at 40% of the market and standard production is growing and is now the most profitable.
The Commission has now signalled that they will allow pig pap (processed animal protein) to be used in poultry feed along with insect protein. This has taken years to be agreed.
In another of my roles as a Director of NFSCo, the company that helps keep the cost of deadstock collection down, we had a very interesting presentation from a Spanish company that has a system for egg traceability which allows the consumer to trace the eggs back to the house on the farm where it was laid. This just shows how computer technology is moving forward all the time. It was on a large free-range farm. They operate on farms with total hen numbers of 8.2 million hens.
At home we had an endoscope put up our water lines and I was surprised to see how much microfilm had built up in them. We do use probably too much multi-vitamin and probiotic down the lines. We have now removed it. Why did we do it? Because our performance has fallen off. One vet let us have some peroxide strips which shows you the level of contamination. It will be interesting to see if our performance starts to come back.