By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire
This month as per usual I have Zoomed into several meetings and was heartened to hear that the lobbying by the NFU and others on labour seems to have solved several company’s Christmas labour shortages, albeit at a great cost to them, as the labour had to come through agencies.
It was also good to see that the poultry and egg industry has reduced the use of antibiotics by 75% since 2014 and we have reached all the targets set for the industry. The problem may be keeping the levels down there and I would like to remind some that sometimes birds need treating, especially at the moment when there seems to be on farm a bacterial infection that few seem to understand but is causing huge loses by way of rejects and culls. In fact, in one shed we suffered 7.75% mortality and 8.3% rejects, the worst figures since we had Gumboro years ago. The new crop is in and so far, so good, with 0.6% mortality at nine days. I just hope this continues.
Another bit of good news for poultry is that whilst meat consumption overall in the UK is down by 17% since 2008, from 103.7 grams per day per person to 86.3 grams, chicken consumption has increased.
All this leads me on to one question. Do retailers really want British poultry? I ask this because of the comments and actions of some retailers and the prices they are offering. We as producers are facing cost increases on all fronts: feed, labour, transport, utilities plus now we have the danger of avian influenza.
If retailers really want British product going forwards, then they have to pay more now and not in six months’ time. They usually give us just about enough oxygen so we can breathe. Well, I can assure them the oxygen has run out. This especially true for the turkey industry.
My processor (2 Sisters) has put its head above the parapet and been very honest about the situation, I would ask, where is the rest of the industry?
Lastly, I watched the EPIC virtual conference, and what came out of it for me was what a great Industry we have, what a fantastic job we as growers and egg producers are doing, we just need to shout about it.
The work is being done to remove our Achilles Heel, which is soya in the rations. James Hook of Hook2Sisters said in his presentation that they have taken out soya in one of their farms, and the chicken grew well but the cost of the diet means more work needs to be done. As usual, when you give the industry a problem, we will find the solution without Government support.
So come on retailers, put your money where your mouth is in these unprecedented times.