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An update on the game season

Alan Beynon BVM&S MRCVS, Kenny Nutting BVetMed MRCVS, Suzy Ackerley BVMedSci (Hons) BVM BVSc (Hons) MRCVS, Ben South BSc (Hons) BVetMed MRCVS, Helen Errington BVM BVSc (Hons) MRCVS – St David’s Game Bird Services

There has been further improvements in reducing antibiotic levels in the last year associated with the favourable weather patterns in the rearing and release. The feeling amongst veterinarians involved in the sector is that further strategy has to reside in the game farmers investing in better housing and production systems to reduce problems on the shoots that they supply. The adoption of a robust traceability system also has to [paragraph 2] Mycoplasma continues to be a constant challengebe a consideration in this project.

Mycoplasma continues to be a challenge with infections breaking out after the recent period of difficult weather with several shoots joining the BVPA Mycoplasma Scheme for detailed diagnostics. It appears the birds were mainly infected in rear and that the stress leads to the display of swollen heads/bulgy eye symptoms.

Over the last month, there has been an increase in the number of reported ‘bulgy eye’ symptoms. It is often at this time of year that this disease presents itself; sometimes for the first time and on some sites for a second time, after a rearing or early release breakdown. Whilst it is almost impossible to treat this disease at this point in the season we should always take samples to ascertain what diseases are present for preventative purposes for the following season. This is where the Mycoplasma Scheme that is part-funded comes in handy and testing can be undertaken with relative ease and minimal financial cost. We would urge any gamekeepers that see birds with symptoms to have it fully investigated. Transmission through water and feed systems leads to increasing problems with air sac pathology and low flying birds. Management for clinical signs are still the same with the active culling of infected birds and strict management to prevent high stress and spread.  

The excellent weather conditions from this year’s rearing season resulted in reduced numbers of hexamita outbreaks. This highlights that hexamita is largely an opportunistic disease strongly influenced by management and environmental conditions. Stocking density, pen enrichment and nutraceutical use should be at the forefront of pen management for next season.

There have been high incidences of both capillaria worm burdens (and mycoplasma) in shoots with poor performance. The strategic use of licensed worming products have failed on a number of shoots again this year and appears to be an increasing problem. This has been affecting the flying ability of the birds and causing chronic weight loss. Worm infestation during shooting can be due to a combination of stocking density, environmental contamination and weather. The use of wormers during this period unfortunately leads to a with-hold from the meat markets. With the adoption of the new British Game Alliance Assurance Scheme the quality of the final carcass worm free is an important consideration. We are looking into parasite levels and how we can manage next year’s stock.

In the North we have seen similar results, most pheasant and partridge shoots are doing extremely well with high numbers of birds flying well over the guns. There have been a few shoots that have been troubled by mycoplasma again but this has improved since last year and we are testing and putting plans in place to further reduce the incidence of this disease for next season.We have seen an increased number of cases of peracute and acute coccidiosis in partridge. Reasons for this are as yet unclear, but this is something we are trying to understand more thoroughly before the 2019 rearing season commences. 

However, it is a different story on the grouse moors as almost all shoots across the board have stopped shooting due to low stock numbers. This is likely to be due to the cold spring, dry summer and high parasite burdens.