COMMENTS FROM TWO OTHER LEADING POULTRYMEN
GRANT BRERETON “I often get asked what the average pure-bred bantam or large fowl goes for these days, and it’s not necessarily an easy answer. For example, the best breeder of Partridge Wyandotte bantams was only charging £15 per bird until recently, whereas others would charge triple that amount for inferior stock. So price doesn’t always reflect quality.
“I agree with Jeremy that profit comes first for many people, who often defend their sub-standard stock by highlighting the production decline in exhibition birds, but such a notion isn’t set in stone; there’s no reason why a fowl cannot look good and produce well at the same time. And just because a fowl isn’t up to standard in terms of looks and physical attributes, doesn’t mean it should immediately be regarded as ‘utility.’
“The winter classic shows will have a degree of quality exhibition stock available, and often because of the timing of the event fail to reach their prices. The Federation Show is on the last weekend before Christmas, for example, so sadly only the die-hard fanciers tend to go and are able to buy really good stock at reduced rates. The remainder of Joe Public is too busy thinking about the festive season. It’s quite ironic really, considering that inferior stock can sell for triple the prices at summer auctions, where warmer weather brings out the crowds.
“But not all sale sections are filled with quality. It’s about doing your research. And not all superstars produce superstars. In this ‘instant gratification’ age, the skill of poultry breeding is declining rapidly and I’ve experienced it personally. When you sell or give away ‘breeding birds’ that you know will do the buyer a lot of good, they look at you in disbelief and often aren’t prepared to do a couple of year’s worth of breeding to find out.
“So, to conclude, for the right stock with all those years of selection, expenses, heartache, graft and dedication, I’m not sure you can put a price on that. What price will you pay for buying the wrong birds?
ANDY CAWTHRAY “I’ve lost count of the number of times I have ‘got vocal’ about the prices of birds and those who leap on the bandwagon with the intent of making a quick profit. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum, and all in between when it comes to poultry selling, from the perfectionists to the peddlers.
“I’ve had respectable breeders give me excellent quality birds for nothing, and I’ve had profiteers trying to get me to part with £100 for half a dozen eggs for some new fandangle* (*elaborate but useless ornament).
The bottom line, though, is market forces, supply and demand, trends, and the like. I kept and bred an excellent laying strain of Anconas for many years, yet I could barely give them away, never mind sell them. Yet when I had gold laced bantam Orpingtons, someone offered me £70 for two unsexed day-old chicks. Sales at shows are no different to poultry sales anywhere; they are subject to the same market forces and, amongst the sellers, there are the honest folks and the outright sharks.
That said, and putting aside market forces, one day I worked out the cost (excluding my effort) of hatching and rearing a pullet. Taking into account the energy costs, feeds and bedding costs, fertility rates and the fact the 50% of the hatchlings will be only become identifiable as male by week 7, I calculated that it costs me £7.52 to ‘produce’ a POL pullet. So selling the bird for £15 doesn’t seem unreasonable, and in many respects is under-priced. We must also be careful not to devalue the livestock to the point that a breeder cannot even recover the cost of production.