KEEPER’S DI­ARY: Plans for the game farm con­tinue apace

The sea­son might be over, but the hard work con­tin­ues apace for busy game­keeper Char­lie Matthews as a Euro­pean grant al­lows plans for the new game farm to gather mo­men­tum

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Apart from deal­ing with any caught-up lay­ing birds, Fe­bru­ary and March are usu­ally qui­eter months for the game­keeper and the tra­di­tional down­time. There is usu­ally a mass ex­o­dus of keep­ers and their fam­i­lies head­ing off for some Ca­nary Is­land sun and fam­ily time be­fore it all starts again. For oth­ers, the quiet time means crack­ing on with their deer cull which they will have been too busy to do through­out the pheas­ant sea­son. I’m not catch­ing up this year, but I’m hop­ing to be able to cull some deer for gen­eral es­tate man­age­ment – plus it will be a nice change to eat some veni­son rather than pheas­ant most nights of the week!

At the time of writ­ing, the shoot­ing sea­son ap­pears to be end­ing well here with our days ex­ceed­ing the bag tar­get, which has made the boss and the Guns all happy. I’m look­ing for­ward to Beat­ers’ Day and the chance to get stuck into shoot­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence the birds I’ve cared for and tended to all year. I know quite a few of my beat­ers have booked the fol­low­ing day off work in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a good evening cel­e­bra­tion and the tra­di­tion of drink­ing the shoot bar dry!

Pest con­trol con­tin­ues, with the game farm con­tin­u­ing to draw foxes here and an­other five were shot in the last week. Typ­i­cally, I can go out for two or three hours around our land and not see a thing and then come back to the game farm to find them only in the ad­ja­cent field! The mild win­ter we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced has seen cubs out early; a vixen I shot in early Jan­uary was about a week or so off birthing a lit­ter.

On the game farm side of things, I can now let you know that we ap­plied for, and have been suc­cess­ful in re­ceiv­ing, a grant from the Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme for Eng­land which is a Euro­pean grant. There is still time to ap­ply for grants so for any­one start­ing a new project or look­ing to in­crease their game farm pro­duc­tiv­ity, I would rec­om­mend look­ing into it. The ap­pli­ca­tion process seemed quite daunt­ing but our lo­cal Dorset team have been a huge sup­port in guid­ing us through it.

One of the things the grant is help­ing us fund is in­ter­nal ren­o­va­tions to a rear­ing barn. The barn will be much bet­ter in­su­lated and there­fore en­ergy-ef­fi­cient. This will al­low us to save money on gas and elec­tric­ity and will also al­low us to im­prove the health of young chicks by al­low­ing us to bet­ter reg­u­late tem­per­a­ture.

The rear­ing barn will also have new in­ter­nal, fully-wash­able plas­tic sur­faces and ceil­ings, which will make it much more bio-se­cure by al­low­ing for a thor­ough clean and dis­in­fec­tion. Again, this will

‘The barn will be in­su­lated, which will im­prove the health of our young chicks by al­low­ing us to bet­ter reg­u­late the tem­per­a­ture’

im­prove the health and wel­fare of young chicks by stop­ping the spread of dis­ease and there­fore re­duce the need for any an­tibi­otics or med­i­ca­tions. Also, any­one who has reared par­tridge will know that they cre­ate much more dust than pheas­ants. This is be­cause par­tridge chick feath­ers de­velop with a sheath on them which is then shed (think lots of dead skin, pretty grim). This dust gets ev­ery­where – on the walls, ceil­ings and lights – and needs to be re­moved be­tween batches of chicks.

So, in amongst the end-of-shoot­ing-sea­son game­keep­ing, the pest con­trol, the deer cull and the de­vel­op­ment of our par­tridge lay­ing field, I am also in­volved in the in­ter­nal ren­o­va­tions of the barn. It has made me re­think my rat con­trol pro­gramme as I have seen such huge num­bers as we have been gut­ting the barn. Al­though we use poi­sons in and around the build­ings, it isn’t al­ways the first pri­or­ity and the num­bers have re­ally in­creased. We all know the de­struc­tion that rats can do to hedgerow birds and to prop­erty. I had one which cost me £200 af­ter it de­cided the wires in my car en­gine were tasty. They are also a biose­cu­rity haz­ard, as some­how I don’t think they will dip their paws in FAM 30 as they move be­tween the rear­ing barn and the field! So as you can see, there won’t be much jet set­ting off for win­ter sun go­ing on in Fe­bru­ary for this keeper!

There’s al­ways plenty to do on the game farm

It is im­por­tant to main­tain good biose­cu­rity on the game farm, such as dip­ping boots into FAM 30 when­ever we go in­side.

The game farm is an added draw for foxes on Char­lie’s shoot, so culling con­tin­ues apace

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