By Tom Woolman, poultry industry consultant
Summer is well and truly on upon us.
I am sure I am not the only one who has welcomed a cooler spring this year. We’ve had enough of baking heat in the poultry industry to appreciate a cool breeze while we have one.
Across the UK various people will be facing up to their strategy on heat stress over the next few months. Some I know have gone all in and have spent a significant amount of money on fans and misting systems.
Others have looked at the market conditions and said the last thing they need to be doing is spending speculatively when they don’t know when the next extreme heat event will happen.
Let’s be honest, misting systems still have the power to divide when you talk to farmers. While they do have the ability to provide a level of cooling to birds, their operation is also open to complication and risk. A system needs to be maintained correctly, with clean water and operated in the right ambient humidity to be effective. I have little experience of these systems myself in the breeder world but I have heard enough horror stories in my time from others to know they are not a silver bullet.
For those famers who lost significant numbers of birds it has been a fairly simple investment to weigh up, given the financial and emotional toll of last year. Others are being cautiously pragmatic and are carefully trying different strategies before fully committing to a solution.
Tunnel ventilation is the real winner here. You don’t see farmers in properly hot countries messing around with misting systems. I know one farmer exploring how practical retrofitting tunnel ventilation is to their existing housing, despite the challenges this presents. There are other interesting innovations in the climate control arena, and I’m sure that technology will offer many potential fixes over the next few years. However, the attractiveness of a tunnel and cool-pad combination is the simplicity of it.
There is a reason this has become the go to design for most chicken production south of the Mediterranean. The heatwave last year showed us that luck had as much to do with who suffered and who didn’t. However, we all know that there are things we can do to improve our chances year on year.
That is why some farmers end up having to spend money on tax advisors while others are still scratching a living. So be lucky – but do your homework and keep investing.