By Charles Bourns, poultry farmer and chair, eggs & poultry working group, Copa-Cogeca
At last some good news in these difficult times. I have had the pleasure of attending an NFU meeting. This one was specifically on Red Tractor standards. While I still have some concerns, especially about how the stocking density is worked out, it was a very positive meeting.
Why was it so positive? During meetings held by the NFU with various retailers, they have made commitments to source British poultry products. I only hope that supply will be able to keep up with demand. The second reason is that Red Tractor is going to run a major campaign on British chicken covering how they are produced, why we have certain standards and how these make our chicken safe. It includes filming inside the houses and they use a young lady who is seen as the right fit to represent today’s average consumer and she asks lots of questions. It all comes across really well.
This meeting really addressed my two main worries at the moment. The first was that I was fed up hearing about the threat from US chicken, and the second was my concern we weren’t shouting about whatwe do directly to the consumer. So, let’s get behind this campaign. I know the NFU will be using its social media to promote and you should too.
This week we are having a meeting of The Charitable Trust of the Poulters where we will back Paul Kelly’s idea to hold a day to encourage people into the industry. It would tie in to the NFU’s PIP scheme and would mean not only successful candidates, but that some of the candidates who did not get on the programme would be given an introduction to the industry to try and encourage them to still pursue a career in poultry. If predictions are right about worker shortages, we will desperately need them. The Poulters have limited funds to help anyone in the industry with a project that they feel would further their career.
At home, the chicken are growing well this crop. Mortality is low and weights are OK but we do have a new problem – or one I have not had for years – litter beetles. While I’ve been growing the two crops of Freedom Food birds that use straw bales and are kept on longer than standard, the numbers of beetles has been building so we will have to spray for them.
Someone has suggested putting lime under the bales, so we will try that in one shed. Next crop we are back to Freedom Food birds and due to their low stocking density we are going to part brood in one shed to see if it makes a difference. We also want to overcome another problem – lack of waterflow when they are young, which means we are flushing the drinker lines for the first week.
It could also save on gas cost which, like everything else, is on the move. Lastly, we are making sure our biosecurity is extra tight because avian influenza is about again in Europe and our farm is under the flight path to Slimbridge!