By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire
Firstly, what a fantastic victory for the NFU and the farmers they backed in the AI compensation case. The judge ruled in their favour and although Defra is able to appeal, it feels like we have won.
The ruling means that compensation will be given for birds that are alive when the farmer notifies the authorities and not when they come to cull the farm. During last winter’s outbreak, one farm had lost 95% of its flock by the time the cull started, so this ruling could be worth a great deal of money to individual farmers and companies, so if you are reading this and are not an NFU member, it is time for you to think about it. It was the NFU that had the resources to back the farmers and it was the NFU’s poultry team that gave the evidence.
After 35 years, I have stepped down from the NFU’s national poultry board. It was a difficult decision but the correct one as I was becoming a bit of an old fart. I will however still attend my County Forum and the regional poultry board as my passion for the industry is undiminished. It was a strange time as I finished on the poultry board on the Wednesday and on the Thursday the board of the National Fallen Stock Scheme Nfsco appointed me their chairman. It is a job I am taking on from Michael Seals who has been in position for 20 years since Nfsco started. He leaves it at a time when all is going very well. It should be an interesting job as it operates throughout the United Kingdom so I will have to see where it leads.
At home, my son is taking over the reins officially. It’s a decision that has been made due to my heart trouble. I feel very lucky the trouble was found, especially when I hear of the trouble other people have had, in some cases with tragic results. I am thinking particularly of Neil Davis, who was such a leading light with SWCA. He will be greatly missed.
Lastly, I still believe the industry needs to do more to promote itself. I know that it is beset with numerous problems: lack of labour, increased costs that no-one seems willing to take on board, and now the perceived welfare benefit of 30 kg stocking density, which to my mind is being made completely meaningless as everyone seems to be adopting different standards. The Red Tractor has a standard and in my opinion, everyone should adhere to this. In addition to this, we have the BCC standard and also 30kg chicken using the faster growing chicken and allowing thinning. I make no judgement as I have never believed that stocking density has anything to do with welfare; that is down to stockmanship.
I look forward to seeing you at various events throughout the year and let’s hope the positive start to 2024 continues. And, do enter the National Egg & Poultry Awards!