The St David’s Game Bird Services Online Spring Event took place last Wednesday 3rd March.
As our first online event, we were delighted to have so many people tune in to listen to Dr Kenny Nutting, St David’s and Liam Stokes, BGA as they discussed ‘Future-proofing your shoot’ with our excellent host, Charlie Jacoby, Fieldsports TV.
During the session we covered multiple topics all of which seemed to gain a lot of interest from our attendees as many questions were sent in throughout the duration of the event.
As such, here are our event highlights from the evening, summarising some of the key points from the night.
Impact of Covid on the Game Sector
As Liam described, 2020 was a year of ‘chronic unpredictability’ and had a big impact on our sector. However, as both Kenny and Liam agreed, it also gave many in the game industry a chance to reflect on their businesses, take a closer look at operations and take new steps to become more efficient, sustainable and to build back stronger.
With less birds on the ground as a result of Covid-19, from a veterinary perspective we did see a reduction in disease and now is the time to put in even more work to ensure that the reduced levels are reflected in this next season also.
We have also seen an increased interest in sites recording data and using it to analyse things such as bird performance, profitability and returns as well as mortality rates and how to reduce them. As a sector there is a move towards data benchmarking and we are seeing many more clients on the ground making considered data driven changes, to better improve their set-ups and protect their businesses for the future.
Liam also described how accurate data recording and reporting is important to demonstrate to the likes of government and DEFRA that we are an accountable and professional sector. Through greater traceability and transparency we will align the game sector with other meat producing industries which will better support the case for self-regulation among the legislative bodies.
Innovation and Research
There is a lot of innovation and research happening in the game sector currently, particularly as businesses seek to become more sustainable and efficient following the impacts of a reduced season in 2020.
During the event, Kenny discussed the continuing research and development work that the St David’s veterinary team are involved in, explaining how a lot of time is spent trialling the efficacy of products before we begin to use them on site.
Most recently, Kenny has been particularly interested in the results of a new essential oils product, Necox, which he trialled on a partridge site with 70,000 poults (35,000 in the Necox trial vs 35,000 on a comparative product). In his trial with a comparative product, Kenny saw a mortality reduction of 2.5% in the birds where Necox was used, as well as a 35% overall reduction in the use of medication up until 16 weeks of age. To find out more about Necox, please speak with your local St David’s vet.
BGA Audits and Training
Last year, there were few days in which BGA audits were able to happen outside of National Lockdown’s, however Liam confirmed that 70 audits were able to take place and they hope to have boots on the ground again soon to recommence the auditing process.
The BGA are working towards an annual spring review of the audit, to ensure that all elements of the audit are up-to-date, comprehensive and fit for purpose.
St David’s Game Bird Services have been working with a number of other professionals from the game sector to finalise a new Gamekeeper Training Programme. The programmes, which focus on four key areas: hatcheries, breeding, rearing and release, are aimed to best prepare gamekeepers and farmers for their BGA audits and to provide certified training that can be used to demonstrate and support the accountability and professionalisation of the sector.
The courses which will be delivered by vets are expected to be launched in autumn with in-person, practical sessions. For more information, please keep an eye on St David’s website here.
Brexit – and the European Meat Market
As previously reported, both the BGA and St David’s have been working closely with DEFRA following a number of issues with the export of game meat to the continent following Brexit. Whilst a lot of good progress has been made, Liam spoke of some specific issues that are still occurring in certain Border Control Posts in Europe which are still causing some pain.
The BGA and St David’s are continuing to work with DEFRA on the issue and hope to find a complete solution to the problems that are being experienced as soon as possible.
Whilst securing access for the exports into the European market is of great importance to secure the sector for the future, Liam also discussed the refocusing of the BGA’s efforts on growing the UK’s domestic game meat market. During the event Liam said “2020 gave us an opportunity to reinvent game meat marketing and to focus on getting it into the home.” As we come out of lockdown over the next few months, and the nation begins to socialise with friends and family and return to pubs and restaurants, the BGA will be working hard to ensure that game meat is featuring on menus and making its way into our shopping baskets.
The Future of the Industry – Self-Regulation, Assurance and Veterinary Health Plans
Discussing the future of the industry, Dr Kenny Nutting spoke of how his role as a game vet has evolved over the years. Kenny discussed how St David’s now often takes a consultancy-based holistic approach when out on site, meaning they review the whole infrastructure, systems and supply chains in place in addition to the health and welfare of the birds to help clients to become efficient, sustainable and secure for the future. These services are often provided under the Veterinary Health Plan (VHP), which are increasingly important for the future of the industry as we move towards self-regulation, as well as to ensure the ongoing health and welfare of the birds is at the highest priority.
When asked about the future Liam said: “Now is the time to be thinking about the future, and thinking about how we can increase the uptake of shoot assurance across the sector.” This comes as it is confirmed that DEFRA require 80% of the sector to be under the ‘self-regulatory shield’ and effectively signed up to the BGA, in order to consider the industry as credible when it comes to self-regulation.
To find out more about the BGA, or to register your business head to the BGA website here.