After the cold and wet of early spring, a warmer May offers the hope of a long hot summer, which means lower use of antibiotics in poults
Is this the start of the muchpromised long hot summer? The May just gone has been the first we have had for a while with any number of consistently warm, dry days. Which was quite a relief after the cold, wet and snow of February, March and april.
Sadly, the better weather has been a bit too late to have any positive effects on egg production and the hens in the laying pen. The egg quality has still been there but the hens haven’t laid as many eggs as they have in previous years. This is no doubt due to a loss of condition early on in the year, when we had two separate weeks of heavy snow, and two months of cold, wet weather.
if the good weather continues, and we do get a flaming June and a decent July and august, the rearing and release periods will be so much easier.
Warm and dry
Rearing when it is warm and dry is almost a pleasure and certainly more enjoyable than checking heaters and looking at damp, miserable poults. not only that, but it is far easier to rear happy, dry birds without antibiotics than it is to rear wet, chilled and unhappy ones. if we do have a warm dry summer there is no doubt in my mind that our use of antibiotics will be lowered further. The risk, of course, is that the amount of antibiotics used in a favourable summer is set as a benchmark and expected when we have a cold, wet one.
We can reduce them further; in fact i believe a lot further — and simple things like stocking densities and biosecurity will be key to us doing so — but the need to reduce our antibiotic usage needs to be tempered with realism. There will be years when we use more antibiotics than others because not every rearing season nor release period will be as warm and dry as we would like.
another upside to the recent spell of warm weather is that the game crops are planted and back on track. in the wet and cold of late april we were rather despondent and a good week or two behind, with no cereals drilled and the ground only just sprayed off. Ten days of decent conditions and everything is back where it should be. We are slightly ahead of last year and have drilled the millets and dwarf sorghum already. The calendar said we were a bit early, the soil thermometer said not.
Typically, i am now a little concerned about a lack of moisture. We rolled in what we could and the maize — which we don’t roll — was planted deep enough and into moisture and is already starting to get away. The cereals are struggling a little and the millet and sorghum will be fine, as long as we get a bit of rain in the next week or so to move it on.
The good weather has also had positive effects on wild game. already we are seeing good-sized broods of pheasants and we are hopeful that the partridges on our grey partridge reintroduction project are going to produce the same. if the weather stays as it is, the insect counts will be good and the chicks won’t have to travel far to find their food. What they do eat will be helping them grow and put weight on, and they won’t use up energy trying to keep warm, as happens in a more typically British summer.
“It is far easier to rear happy, dry birds without antibiotics than it is to rear wet, chilled and unhappy ones”
The insect counts are improving year on year. This is due in no small part to the implementation of several agri-environment schemes. What the future holds for such schemes is uncertain, but it looks as though future environmental schemes and funding could be resultsbased. The current system is geared towards payments for implementation and particularly hard to police.
This is only my guess, of course, and a week is a long time in politics, never mind another six months.
The good weather has had a positive effect on wild game, with good-sized broods of pheasants