IN THE KNOW: How to help ensure safety through good communication
As the summer draws to a close, Charlie Matthews is busy cleaning up from the rearing season, preparing for the partridge shooting season – and maybe even booking a holiday!
At the time of writing this diary entry (the beginning of September), the shooting season is still a long way away for me as we don’t start shooting until mid October, but some of you will already be knocking up the days. I’m having to rethink my plan for the season as the dry weather has caused crop failure on two of my drives, one of which I was hoping to use more this year as it is situated on a rise and can create some cracking partridge shooting. The boss reckons he can sort it in time so I hope he has something up his sleeve other than a rain dance.
Other than that, on the shoot side of things, I’m busy dogging-in, feeding, dogging-in, chasing up beaters for this season and dogging-in again.
I had a deer get into a pen the first day the birds went to wood, which resulted in a lot of scattered poults who still haven’t remembered where home is. Worst luck still, on one of the sides of the wood, there is a very large field of maize so getting them back isn’t going to be fully possible until that comes off.
On the game farm side of things, the rearing season may be drawing to a close, but there is still lots to do as everything needs to be cleaned out and disinfected ready for the next season. Some people will leave this until the end of the shooting season to do during February but, in my opinion, it can’t be left over winter from a disease and hygiene point of view.
In a previous issue, I shared with readers that the game farm had been lucky in benefitting from
a European grant from the Rural Development Programme for England. Well, one of the things we have done is to plastic-clad the rearing barns, which has made it possible to easily clean and disinfect between batches, as well as making the end-of-season deep clean easier.
The interior of the roof was sprayed with foam insulation before being clad and this has made a big difference in keeping the heat in.
Sadly, we don’t have the space immediately outside the rear of the barn to create veranda runs bolted onto the back to save double handling. Instead, we built a modular system of finishing-off huts and grids that can be dismantled and cleaned at the end of the season.
We are currently in the middle of sorting the laying partridges, separating them into flocks of cocks and hens. This handling gives us the chance to check the health of the birds and trim any beaks or claws as necessary and to carry out any repairs or alterations to their laying nest boxes. The cocks will be put under artificial lighting earlier than the hens as they take a bit more geeing up to get them in the mood for the spring laying.
Over the winter, we will be making more of our homemade laying boxes as we have found that the wire we use for the flooring has been much more gentle on the birds’ feet than commercially available laying boxes. So although one rearing season is only just closing, we are already preparing for the next one.
Hearing this, the girlfriend brought home some holiday brochures the other day and is threatening to drag me away in February. I told her that it is completely up to her where we go, which made her happy... on the one proviso that it’s got to be somewhere I can shoot something! I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with!
The raised partridge grids help control disease
Even in dry weather, runs can quickly become a breeding ground for disease
The dogging-in team are getting a real workout this year
The end-of-batch clean out is easier thanks to the plastic coating throughout the barn
Plastic-clad ceilings and walls have rejuvinated an old barn