By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire
This month has been a very difficult one as it seems almost impossible to find out exactly what I should be paying for any product as prices are so volatile, whether it be shavings that went up 8% the day before we had them delivered or electric that I finally signed a two-year contract for and was up 70% on the last contract.
The worry about all this is that our processor with enormous effort has managed to get increases in feed covered but not the other costs, so we are now half house brooding both sheds. Last crop in the shed we tried it and worked well. This exercise saves the running of 80 LED lights and four heaters for 21 days of the crop. We are also on a half hourly meter and between 16.00 hours and 19.00 hours the electric cost 35.7per kw so this now our dark period. I am hopefully saving as much on electricity as I can. The heaters – I find this hard to believe – use eight litres per day, just running the pilots.
The last crop was the best we have had for a long time with 1.26% mortality and only 0.15% rejects in the factory. We did however use Linco Spectin after a vet visit for three days at the beginning, the first medication we have used for nine crops. I do wish that those who make the dictates by which we have to farm would realise that no one will use any product unless it is necessary as none of these products are free!
My only problem caused by having a good crop was that one shed went over the 30kg stocking density so we have been destocked by 10%. The other shed was below 30kg as was the whole farm. This policy is causing real problems in the planning departments of the processor as by the time they know about the change in numbers per shed the chicks are well on their way in the setters. I would like this requirement of each shed having to be below the stocking density reviewed.
Sadly the industry lost one of it great supporters Peel Holroyd, who always said that chicken was the answer to the world’s problems and just maybe he had a point, as Aviagen has just published a report that shows that the modern broiler generates a carbon footprint 50% lower than their 1970 equivalent due to improvements in FCR and with the annual forecast improvement by 2030 it will have a footprint 15% lower than today.
One of the main contributors to our carbon footprint is soya. The other afternoon I Zoomed into a meeting where a company that is working with Morrisons and 10 farmers to produce net carbon zero eggs showed how their system of on farm maggot production could reduce the use of 5% of the soya in a ration as well as improving the layers’ efficiency. Certainly the hens in the video loved the maggots, at present they have not developed it for broilers but they reckon it could help get the birds off to a better start.
We have been lucky so far not to have seen AI in this area although I am sure it is about and is a real worry for all. What is really worrying is the number of small mixed species units that are still going down with the disease. If AI is going to become an annual event somehow these units need to be discouraged or better policed because of the problems they have caused the professional part of the industry. Whilst biosecurity might be the best form of defence, until we have these small units dealt with, the efforts of the industry will not be helped.
At long last we are going to have live meetings so I look forward to meeting some of you at the NFU AGM and also at the City Food Lecture which is virtual and is always worth a watch.