Comment: We are moving to half house brooding to save on energy costs

By Charles Bourns, broiler producer, Gloucestershire

This month has been fairly traumatic for many reasons, most of which have not really impacted me on the farm yet but are coming down the line. My LPG price has increased to 34.53p per litre. This time last year it was 23.1p per litre.

This increase equates to £11,430 per year to our costs and my electric contract is due for renewal in January and judging from what others are renewing at this will add a further £4,500 to my annual costs.

This equates to about £3 per kg we produce as we are now RSPCA Assured producers. If we produced standard birds, it would add £1.47 per kg.

So, we have decided to change how we run the farm which thank goodness we refurbished five years ago as it cut our energy requirements by 49%. When we refurbished, we decided to split our feeders and drinkers in the middle as at the time there were noises about how long chicken would be allowed to be without food at catching.

So, we have decided that we will from the next crop half house brood at least for the winter. In two to three crops’ time this will hopefully lead to a saving in gas and electric and go some way to mitigate the price increases. I feel we can do this and not affect performance as we stock at 12.4 birds a square metre and stocking in the half house will be 20.17 birds per square metre. Time will tell.

The good news this month is that our customers want British chicken and they are selling well. The sad news is that due to the labour situation the industry has had to cut back production and could lose market share to imports. We as farmers need to emphasise that we have not lost the ability to produce chicken as some believe.  Let’s hope the news we have had this week on seasonal labour will help and we must thank the NFU, BPC and BEIC for their lobbying on our behalf.

The problem the processors seem to be having is in the cutting side of the industry. So I wonder why is no one promoting whole chicken sales to try and get the consumer to buy fewer portions? Back in 2007/8 the industry ran a very good campaign promoting whole chicken under the slogan ‘Roast it, Eat it, Love it.’  And it worked, increasing sales by 10% . People have always told me that the moment you put a knife into a chicken you lose money but maybe that is just a tale for the farmers’ benefit.

As I write I have been reminded that avian influenza seems to be back on the agenda. I am reminded by the fact that I have just had a large flock of geese fly directly over the farm. We are on the flight path to and from Slimbridge Wetlands Wildfowl Trust so I will have to re-examine the biosecurity.

Lastly, this week I went to the Poulters’ Luncheon. I would remind anyone who feels they could benefit from a small amount of money to allow them or an employee to do a project that would help their business to please get in touch. I am the secretary to the trustees and Paul Kelly is the Chairman. Also If you also know of anyone who is finding it really hard to cope financially who has worked in the industry there is The Fishmonger and Poulters Institution they can apply to for a small grant.

Maybe I will soon see you in person again or virtually at the EPIC Conference in November.


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