Game­keeper

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

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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