By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire
Can I ask a question? Why are we as farmers deemed to be inherently dishonest, uncaring and in need of constant policing by one and all? As in all walks of life – and as with doctors, nurses and fisherman – we have the odd bad apple but does that mean the vast majority should not be trusted to do a good job?
I say all this because there are now consultations out for new welfare in transport and the Red Tractor both of which I feel just go too far. Is it the job of Red Tractor to become the auditor for all legislation? I know they are following the Eurogap standards but in Europe most countries have their own standards that are not as complicated.
As for the Welfare in Transport Consultation it was obviously drawn up by someone who has very little or any knowledge of what goes on day to day on the farm and in markets. What we do now is watched and controlled by vets and in my mind works very well. Before the government brings in new rules that would make our industry almost impossible to work they should firstly find out what we do and then tell us what is wrong, as we can always improve and will put it right. I know the NFU and others are lobbying hard, but I would ask everyone to get involved and lobby to keep us able to farm!
Anyway, back to the day job. On the farm growing the higher welfare chicken has been good for the gas company. We have really missed growing the extra number of birds from that point of view. I’m a bit worried about what will happen when the next CCL target is reached in two years. We have just completed the last one and it showed a 44.41% improvement in efficiency over our base year, which was prior to the refurbishment. We have now saved up 134 tonnes of carbon, which if we were allowed to trade it would – I am told – be worth £14 per tonne. Not as good as bitcoins but something.
We have also been having great difficulty finding straw bales. At the moment they are about as available as hen’s teeth. I did have a contract for 12 months but in this area they are just not available. Of course, feed prices worry me too. We do have a feed rachet but if the customer will not accept a price rise this has been known to fail.
This month I was forced to give up my position in Brussels at Copa-Cogeca. All I will say about Brexit is the “smooth transition” has been very bumpy thanks to the paperwork and not just for agriculture. It upsets me when businesses under enormous pressure from COVID are now finding problems with markets they previously traded with. This is particularly a problem for the egg industry. On the local radio, the owner of one fish firm that voted to leave has now collapsed as he cannot export his elvers to the EU or Northern Ireland. I am sure it will improve, but why was this all not sorted in advance?
Separately, I would like to remind you that the South West Chicken Association Spring Conference will be virtual and so wherever you are you will be able register for it. There are three speakers, it will last one and a half hours and it takes place on the 30 March.
Next week I will receive my trees from the NFU and the Woodland Trust which should help my carbon footprint, but after a meeting the other day I have now learnt that some are better than others for absorbing carbon whilst others are better for ammonia so maybe I need to do some more homework before I pick them up.