By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire
I have just come in from walking the chickens, an exercise I had to do so that I could calm down. Whilst I know that avian influenza has meant that a large number of layers have had to be culled, this is not the reason for the egg shortage at present.
This shortage was predicted by the industry months ago based on the simple fact that production costs have risen and the price paid to the farmer did not, so surprise, surprise, the farmer has been losing money. So, not unexpectedly the farmers have shut their sheds down, hence an egg shortage.
If that was not bad enough, we now have Sainsbury’s importing Italian eggs and selling them cheaper than British, which is a complete slap in the face for the British egg farmer. They are also barn eggs, breaking their free-range policy. I just hope that other retailers learn from this experience and start paying the British farmer the correct money for their produce. They all talk the talk, it is about time they walk the walk. I just hope the NFU really drive this message forward and not swallow all the justifications the retailers put forward as excuses.
I thank my lucky stars that I farm where I do and the weather has been kind to the area, so we have not been blighted by avian influenza (AI). I know that the NFU have been working very hard to have the compensation improved and the cleaning paperwork simplified. Through the NFU and British Agriculture Bureau (BAB) office in Brussels, I found out how they tackle these problems in France and other countries, which I trust will help speed the processes up over here eventually.
Lastly I want to mention the potential introduction of a vaccine against AI. This could be held up by trade issues, but we could have an ally in this as there is a wish to introduce a TB cattle vaccine, as the culls will finish in two years’ time. Again, trade issues are raising their heads, but if both sectors team up, maybe we can come up with a solution.
Back the day job, we have just finished our first shed of Redbro they went out at 43 days weighing what our J87 weigh at 48 days. This will certainly help our cashflow, which is vital. Whilst we have a good contract it does not have a rachet in it for other costs like insurance, bank borrowing, electric and other monthly costs so speeding up the crop cycles is vital at this time. The Redbro mortality and rejects were very similar and I did take notice of the advice given and started them a degree cooler than usual which I am repeating this time.
May I wish you all a very peaceful festive season and I will raise a glass to a less eventful 2023 for us all.