St David’s Game Bird Services have been working in close collaboration with other vet practices and shooting organisations to prepare the launch of a new Pen Scoring Matrix this summer which aims to better assess the environment, health and welfare of game birds prior to release. The Pen Scoring initiative has been developed to identify any changes that can be made to the environment that the birds are being released into, to better improve the overall health and welfare of the birds, as well as to reduce the risk of disease occurrences across the season and to ultimately help the sustainability of our sector.
As the game bird sector works towards the goal of self-assurance and to align itself with other food producing industries, it is the introduction of schemes such as the Pen Scoring initiative that allows gamekeepers and rearers to better review their practices and protocols, and to ensure that they are providing the best possible environment for the birds in their care. This new initiative is the start of a new standardised approach to the process of pheasant releasing and this can help both the game rearers and keepers to work together to understand where there may be areas in the system that can be improved for future seasons.
Following a detailed consultation period, the panel of game bird vets and industry professionals who created the initiative have taken great care and consideration over each part of the rearing and release process, identifying the key elements to benchmark against using the new scoring matrix. The matrix covers all aspects of a release site including: feeders and drinkers, roosting areas, areas of cover, open space, pen conditions, wet areas, pen perimeter, birds from different sources and release protocols and plans.
After what was a difficult season for many in 2020, some clients have chosen to use 2021 as a time to review, invest and update infrastructure before looking to recommence shooting next season. For those clients, the pen scoring matrix offers a chance to work with their game bird vet to closely review each area of their release set up and to identify the key areas for improvement or change.
At St David’s, our team of vets have already been busy out on site working with clients and using the new pen scoring matrix as they prepare to make changes and investments to their farms and shoots. Sam Morgan, our game vet based in our Herefordshire/ Shropshire practices said, ‘The overall aim of the new pen scoring initiative is to make sure that the environment that the birds are going into is in the best possible state and is as natural as it can be. This allows the birds to be as stress free as possible and will encourage them to exhibit their natural behaviours in their new environment. What it essentially comes down to is that a happy bird is a healthy one, and using the new matrix is a great way for us to work with clients to assess what can be done to achieve that in a consistent way across each pen.”
Changes that have been made so far following pen scoring visits have included the repositioning of feeders and drinkers to give more protection from predators, introducing regular water testing and sanitation and providing more areas of light across the pens.
For more information on pen scoring, or to book your pen scoring visit, you can contact St David’s Game Bird Services by calling 01392 872932 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally written for and posted on GWCT News Blog