By Charles Bourns, poultry farmer and chair of Copa Cogeca working group on poultry and eggs
I am confused, I have just read the Which? magazine article that is obviously totally biased towards organic and Freedom Food chicken; I as a farmer was a Freedom Food producer, I spent a great deal of money to do it, but I am now growing standard chicken not because I did not like growing them but because the consumer would not buy them. This point should be borne in mind by people who write the articles. I will always grow what sells, so instead of criticising the standard and systems these people should promote their sale – most farmers will adapt to what sells. This is how we, as a sector, have been so successful. They should also remember that the well-being of the chicken depends on the stockman looking after them and has very little to do with the method of production.
Last week I was invited to attend a dairy industry meeting on IPPC as they will be in it in the year 2025. I did say, probably not the height of diplomacy, that the poultry industry would welcome that!! As we are held responsible for their ammonia emissions and in my case the odour when they spread their manure in our neighbourhood, they always seem to pick a dry sunny weekend to do it!! I told them that odour will be their Achilles heel, although there are now contractors that will inject the slurry into the soil thus stopping the odour and loss of ammonia. Some dairy farmers are looking at slurry acidification technology which is currently being used in Denmark and can considerably lower emissions.
This week I have been to Northern Ireland as a Director of NFSCo (National Fallen Stock Company). We had a report on Northern Irish agriculture. It seems from that that Brexit has caused havoc in the poultry sector with two supermarkets in the Republic that previously sourced chicken in the north now buying them from Irish Republic processors – in all about one million birds per week.
It was also interesting to learn that the average sized broiler unit in NI is 54,515 birds and layers around 18,000 birds. A great deal of fallen stock is also processed in the Republic. In fact, it would seem almost impossible to separate the two parts of Ireland. This is a fact and not a point made for any political reason. I would add that in Northern Ireland their fallen stock are collected at least every two weeks with the bins being washed and disinfected, the wash water going off with the chicken. This is a service I now get at home which is certainly good for biosecurity. The bins used are big wheelie bins bought from China.
At home it appears that chick mortality has improved and results with it but I do have a problem on the farm – if anyone has the solution that does not cost a fortune please let me know – as you may have read I have refurbished the farm and everything is going well with the exception of podo and hock downgrades. In an attempt to further reduce incidence we are now trying green sawdust so I will let you know if this works.