Comment: why extreme weather is becoming the new normal for farmers

By Matt Donald, farmer, Donald Pig & Poultry, North Yorkshire

Earlier this year we were complaining of freezing conditions and trying to keep everything and everyone warm! Now I’m sat here, looking forward to some cold weather once more. As these extreme weather patterns become more regular, we need to make sure we are always prepared.

Welfare is critical and having being faced with some of the hottest temperatures our unit has seen, we saw new challenges. Shed temperatures at well above the set point, which cannot be helped with the incoming air temperature. The lights come on at 4am meaning the birds get use of the cooler, early mornings, to mate and feed before the heat of the day starts to affect them.

Fortunately, although hot, the modern Draper ventilation provides a strong draught at ground level to help keep the birds cool. Even so, it hit us on the run up to peak production and there are signs of a slight loss of eggs. Time will tell if they make up for this.

It is a reminder that ventilation servicing at turnaround is vital, and cleaning all inlets and outlets, as well as maintenance on fans is crucial. We wash our chimneys from both inside and out, to ensure they operate efficiently when needed.

Producing fertile hatching eggs means that egg storage is critical to performance, not only the cleanliness of the store but also the temperature. Running at 18.5 degrees and with the heat seen in the last few weeks, the older unit has struggled to keep at that, in time we shall see if there is a notable negative effect on hatchability.

As for the solar panels, we had debated whether to install them, eventually limited to a 42kw system. Even at 4.15p FIT tariff, it is well worth the investment and would encourage people who haven’t to get an application in, especially with FIT ceasing in Spring next year. With increasing electric prices, payback shall be under 10 years still.

The heat means it is harder to maintain my production in the warmth. As ever jobs need to be done, these take longer and you use more energy. Some side inlets and an extractor fan in the house might have to be the next investment!

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