By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire
This has been a difficult month with the untimely death of Stephen Hay, who was one of my three wise men when I was chairman of the NFU poultry board. He was one of those people who thought outside the box and the industry has a great deal to thank him for, whether it be the Shed Survey, which demonstrated that if poultry producers make a profit they reinvest it in the farm, to the introduction of litter burners. He will certainly be missed.
The other day I attended the NFU poultry board meeting and heard some good news. The Red Tractor have dropped the idea of auditing every nine months and listened to the farmers on the board and will now audit the farms in one year physically and the next year virtually. The physical audits will try to be done in a window between May to October hopefully missing the Avian Influenza season. It is good to see that common sense can sometimes prevail.
I was however frustrated to hear that we will most likely not have the AI vaccine this coming winter even though the vaccine is working in France, Holland, Hungary, Italy and America. The French have been using it fairly widely in a trial area the size of the UK to protect I presume their duck and goose industry. I just hope that Defra can be persuaded to run a large trial like the French.
The job of the industry over the next few months is to keep some of the feed price decrease on the farm to help pay for all the costs that have gone up. I hear that some processors have already reduced their prices, which is a great shame. Due to this some farmers are not placing chicks on their farms and some are predicting a shortage of chicken by the autumn; a dangerous thing to do as this tends to have the retailers running for imports to keep their shelves full.
Lastly, I am looking forward to seeing you at the SWCA Conference on 25 April and I hope by then spring will have arrived.