An update from Alan Beynon, BVM&S, MRCVS; Exmouth, Devon: The rearing game season has set off at quite a pace with many rearers having increased capacity and many poults now at bitting stage ready to move onto grass runs in preparation for transfer to release pens in early June. The threats of bird flu and transportation issues seem to have taken something of a back seat and chicks are arriving thick and fast.
Partridges did not get off to such a good start with the cold conditions and some quite high early die offs. This has been seen across the board and often takes out the weaker chicks leaving the remainder which thrive.
We have been providing a lot of release pen advice over the winter and there seems increased enthusiasm for new drives and enlarged pens to increase numbers and improve bird hygiene conditions. We have also taken on a number of new shoots on ground never shot before and I am told there are several more to come but to keep it secret!
I am also noticing new entrants to the business with many young lads interested in the sport and the engagement of the year’s cycle from laying pens, to incubation, rearing, release and the culmination in a day’s shooting. There is a lot of work taking place every day of the year and as a Practice, we used to cover a six to eight week period and now much of our job is continued throughout the year, albeit a few months in the shooting season. Time we seem able to fill as well!
It is great to see so many youngsters getting involved and also that many are now female and it gives me great hopes for the sustainability of labour for the future. Several years ago, the job was apparently unwanted and now there is greater enthusiasm for getting involved at all stages of the annual cycle. As the business grows there is also an increased use of technology.
Many rearing businesses are now using sensors which can indicate temperature and humidity in the sheds as well as setting alarms to go off if the birds’ heater goes out or water flow alters significantly. This does not replace the old fashioned practices of checking birds regularly but does act as an aid to the management of these birds.
The weather now is warm and dry with some occasional showers is near perfect as it allows the cover crops to germinate as well as allowing the first chicks access to the outdoors and the lush grass.