Comment: We will have to fight for our industry

By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire

This is the month when I do one of the most difficult but enjoyable tasks of the year given to me by Chloe, which is judging the finalists in the National Egg & Poultry Awards.

It is so difficult because of the high standard of all the finalists and enjoyable because I meet some inspiring people who are driving their businesses forward and with it the success and standard of the British poultry industry. It makes we very proud of what we have achieved and it is something we must get over to those who seem hell-bent on destroying our efforts.

I say that as everything I have seen in the past few weeks makes me feel like we are having to fight for our industry.  I have been involved in the poultry industry 40 plus years and have never known a time like it the marketplace. And without the actions of one or two key individuals it would be far worse; given another cycle there will be a chicken shortage.

The industry will have to invest heavily in robotics due to the labour shortage. Again, this is something the government just does not seem to grasp. They need to act on this immediately! All the while we are selling to a customer that seems unwilling to pay more for what is a fantastic protein at tremendous value. We in agriculture are subsidising the rest of the country’s standard of living and this cannot continue.

On top of that we now we have the ludicrous new poultry transport rules looming. I know the NFU and others have been lobbying hard against them with some success, but I have to ask how on earth does a farmer in Cornwall get their end of lay hens to a processor in four hours?  Ok, if the industry invests in a completely new lorry fleet it might be able to keep going within the new proposed temperature rules. But at what cost? One has to question why is all this necessary?

Anyway, on to other topics.

The EU is about to authorise the use of PAP and insect protein in pig and poultry rations as it is seen as one of the tools in the armoury to cut down the use of soya and make the industry more sustainable. I just hope our government and customers take the same positive attitude. It will also bring in half a billion euros into the industry as it will be a saleable product and not a waste one.

At home we now have the ozone machine fitted to the bins on one of the houses so it will be interesting to see if it makes a difference to the mortality and water consumption. We are doing a three year trial for the company Draper Biotech. My belief that if the ozone does kill the bacteria on the feed then going forward it could be useful as a treatment instead of costly acid for those who feed their birds their own wheat. But maybe I am ahead of myself. At one time we did not treat water and now it is fairly standard now the value is well known.

Lastly it is great that life is slowly returning to normal. The other day I went to the SWCA cricket match where the farmers played the industry in an 18 over game. Perhaps fittingly enough it ended in a draw. The evening was attended by 60 plus people and it was great to catch up and meet people again after nearly two years of Zooming! 

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