By Matt Donald, pig & poultry farmer, north Yorkshire
Is the recent spell of hot weather a warning of things to come throughout summer? Mirroring last year, crops are starting to look thirsty, grass isn’t growing and the chickens are as warm as they wish to be, and it is only mid-June. Last years highs of 40 degrees may be around the corner and we need to ensure we are prepared and ventilation is working at its full potential.
Previously poultry has not really been included within grant schemes coming from the government, however it would be nice to see cooling systems on any future options as well as anything that enhances biosecurity.
The warm temperatures do have some benefits, we are seeing our latest breeder flock fly into lay and exceeding 80% production before their 25th birthday which is an excellent figure so early in the flock. Numerous factors such as good rearing contribute to this, but we also think the warm spring weather is having a positive effect, even in a controlled environment. Although the early small eggs are of no use to the hatchery, because of numbers we still have over 70% making the weight grade at this stage.
We do have to remember it is a marathon to get to 60 weeks, the birds will need to perform strongly all the way through to hit that 160 chicks per bird we hope for. The warmer atmosphere also means we can get away with peaking feed two grams lower than we would in winter. It does not sound a lot, but at today’s prices every gram matters.
It is disappointing to hear of further price cuts in the poultry meat independent sector, costs may have fallen from the highs last year, but many farms are still caught up in older feed and energy contracts. This combined with increasing interest, labour and repair bills, I speak to many producers questioning why they should continue.