Comment: COVID is still causing huge disruption to the poultry industry

By Tom Wornham, NFU poultry board chairman

The COVID -19 virus is still disrupting the poultry industry. At the time of writing, processing plants in Wales, Scotland and now Banham poultry in Norfolk have experienced disruption to normal daily activity and there is no reason why other processing facilities may not be affected in coming weeks. Three individuals have shared with me their account of the impacts on farm to date.

Planning for disruption on your farm seems an impossible task, but considering your options may mitigate some concern. Daniel Dring of PD Hook has been involved with the Llangefni and Coupar Angus factories. He stresses the importance that farmers maintain frequent communication with their processor and to be flexible in the operation of the farm.

Nigel Joice, supplies Banham poultry and has been processing birds during this period of disruption. He reports of limited and disruptive information regarding catching times as circumstances alter. Planned feed requirements on site needed addressing. If your site has restricted delivery hours, consider if these times are flexible to accommodate rescheduled deliveries. Notification of catching times with 24 hours’ notice has been replaced by short notice phone calls. Orderly site depletion has been replaced with intermittent catching and prolonged site clearance. Consequently, there will be a reduced turn around period before taking delivery of the next cycle of chicks. Therefore consider scheduling bedding delivery and cleaning operations.

Gareth Hart supplies birds to Banham from his Suffolk farms. Currently the birds are under the 38kg/m2 stocking density but he is concerned of repercussions if this figure is exceeded. The NFU has received Red Tractor guidance which members can find on the poultry pages of the NFU website, but essentially the situation is beyond the control of the farmer. Communication with the processor or integrator is essential for transport managers to make informed decisions.

As a last resort, on farm slaughtering may be the only option. Such a decision will be out of your control, but your cooperation will be required for those members of staff upon arrival.

Disruption at any processing plant is concerning and we continue to work with other stakeholders, striving for the best outcome for all those involved. Our industry is small in size and relationships are strong between companies and individuals. Businesses are pulling together to support each other and if farmers can also play their part, solutions are possible but be prepared to react given short notice.


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