By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire
I am looking forward to 2023 with optimism for several reasons. Obviously, there will be challenges, but I feel the demand for chicken and eggs will be strong as we produce an affordable, healthy and versatile protein.
Food security is now part of government discussions, and they are starting to listen to us. People are beginning to realise we need to make a profit too. As Princess Anne said at the Oxford Farming Conference: “There is a need for profitable farming in order that farmers can meet the needs of society while protecting the environment.”
It is depressing avian influenza seems to be rumbling on, albeit at a reduced level. I notice the new outbreaks seem to be on mixed small farms. Many years ago, we used to have multi-aged broiler sites, but due to their disease status we now have single aged sites. Surely it is about time these multi-species farms were discouraged for the good of the industry? I know we hope to have a vaccine and other measures but I feel we must encourage these smallholders to be single species only.
I recently went to The Southwest Chicken Association (SWCA) AGM, where apart from doing the usual AGM business, we had a talk from Justin Emery, a ventilation specialist from Jansen UK, about how we could save energy. I was reminded of something my grandfather used to say: “My boy, if you stay in the middle of a field long enough you will come back into fashion.” The reason I thought of this is when I bought my farm 32 years ago, we had multi speed fans that speeded up as the temperature rose. At the meeting we were told that multi speed fans are now back in fashion, although obviously more complicated. It appears that two of these fans running at 10,000 cubic feet each would use 0.32 KWH as opposed to one fan running at 20,000 cubic feet would use 0.9 KWH. There was a question asked about litter conditions and whether this could become problematic but perhaps with low density slow growing chicken it might work.
I do not know what your experience has been since the new year, but all I have had are my suppliers writing to tell me that their prices are increasing between 7% at the bottom end and 28% at the top end for gas. On top of that are bank interest increases.
I know that wheat prices are down, so feed might start to come down, but I just hope that the liveweight price will not come down as fast, because some of – if not all of – the decline needs to be left on the farm.
The Red Tractor board has had a meeting with its poultry board and the technical advisory committee. They are going to increase the frequency of audits on poultry farms, but I cannot see what was wrong with the old system of one audit per year. You could even argue that those who have continuous clean sheets might be rewarded with a year off!