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How is the season progressing so far?

Dr Kenny Nutting BVetMed MRCVS

With the rearing season now fully underway it is great to see so many progressing with the season as the country slowly continues its’ return to a more normal life. The picture is much more positive than what initial industry predictions may have suggested. Although of course for some, this season has had to run on reduced numbers, or has had to be cancelled due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the picture overall is looking promising considering the obstacles we have all been faced with.

This month I have been kept busy on visits and have been having lots of interesting conversations with our clients and so I wanted to share with you the latest I have on how the season is progressing, as well as some insights into the topics that we have been discussing.

Necrotic Enteritis

On the ground the team at St David’s Game Bird Services and I have seen a significant increase in this bacterial disease which is most commonly caused by clostridial bacteria. The disease has been mainly identified in partridges, with the hot and dry start to the season thought to be an influencing factor. It is advised that you have a detailed gut health programme in place, as poor gut health will allow bacteria to gain entry and take advantage of the bird. Antibiotics are sometimes needed to treat Necrotic Enteritis, however preventative in-feed and in-water products are available and can be used effectively.

Heat Stress

As the temperatures are starting to rise for the Summer months it is paramount that we are keeping an eye on birds to ensure that they are not suffering from Heat Stress. Hot weather can cause increased water loss, blood alkalosis and hormone imbalances with birds becoming lethargic. When birds overheat, they stop eating but still drink, sit down and put their wings out away from their bodies and pant as they try and lose heat through their circulatory and respiratory systems.

In order to prepare your birds to better cope with rises in temperature, it is often advised that contingency measures are put in place, adding supplements that are rich in electrolytes to their water. In addition to electrolytes, some products have added ingredients, such as energy, which provides sustenance to encourage active drinking behaviour, and natural antioxidants to support gut integrity to maintain digestion and nutrient absorption that might otherwise affect performance. There are a number of products available to aid this and it is worth talking to your vet for advice on the best preventative solutions for your farm.


For those who are not aware, there is a new licensed wormer for pheasants now available called Gallifen. The active ingredient is the same as many used in water called Fenbendazole. Last year we used Gallifen in early release pens with great success, however there are some licensing limitations which should be discussed with your vet if you are considering the product.

Preparing for early release

We are fast approaching the early release period, and so conversations with clients are turning towards how best to prepare the birds for this next stage. Typically, times of change can cause stress for the birds and we can see an increase in stress induced illnesses as the stability of the gut can be compromised through a reduction of food and water intake.

In order to limit the amount of stress on the bird, we would recommend the following;

  • Ensure that you are feeding the same pellet size that the bird has been reared on and a similar type of drinker where possible for familiarity
  • Use acid in the water continuously for the first two weeks
  • Worm after the first 7 – 10 days of being in the pen (weather dependent

Over-wintered birds

There have already been a number of conversations with clients around over-wintered birds as more farms and shoots look to do this in order to counterbalance lower stocking levels following the initial impacts of COVID-19. As it currently stands, there will inevitably be fewer birds to catch up for breeding stocks, and many farms and shoots are looking at ways to be more self-sustainable as a result.

Over-wintering birds is not an easy or cheap path to go down, however the positives from a disease prevention and self-sustainability perspective can be far greater if it is successful.

If over-wintering is something that your farm or shoot is considering then I would recommend speaking to one of our vets or Field Services Team about how best to approach this and we will be more than happy to advise you on this.


Originally written for Guns On Pegs