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St David's team provides International game bird consultancy to New Zealand estate

Lighthouse Station Case Study 

In a year that has seen lockdown restrictions imposed across countries and borders around the world, Dr Kenny Nutting has been using the power of video calls and Whatsapp to provide consultancy services to a driven shoot based no less than 11,482 miles away in New Zealand.

Ex-pat Guy Ralph and his business partner James Kellow started a new venture when they took on the Lighthouse Station, Manukau Heads, Auckland New Zealand – a driven shooting estate – with laying hens, a hatchery and rearing set up, providing bespoke shooting days for New Zealanders looking for high-end shooting with breath-taking scenery.

Following several years of hard work to establish the estate, and building a reputation for successful shoot days, Mr Ralph contacted St David’s Game Bird Services to work with him to provide consultancy and veterinary support. The main focus of the relationship in its early days was to aid the reduction in the use of antibiotics, disease, and mortality and now Dr Kenny Nutting works closely with Guy and his team advising on ways to further increase the returns the estate are making through efficiencies across the site.

Whilst pheasants are not native to New Zealand, according to online sources the first ‘common’ pheasants were introduced in the Canterbury area from Great Britain as far back as 1842, with populations becoming established in both the North and South islands in the decades that followed.

At the Lighthouse Station, whilst the husbandry and preventative healthcare protocols we apply are similar to those we recommend to our UK based clients, the greatest difference, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the temperature and the subsequent climate related issues the estate often comes up against.

As explained by Dr Kenny, ‘One of the greatest problems and biggest challenges that I have identified since working with Guy is the impact that the outside temperature can have on the birds, particularly when they are chicks, and the struggle to counterbalance that through careful environmental management. Temperatures at the Lighthouse Station often rise to over 30 degrees, and so it is important that the shed is kept cool inside to protect the development of the chicks during this crucial time.’

On average, the Lighthouse Station has 1,300 laying hens, producing up to 10,000 chicks per hatch. In 2019, the site experienced an increase in disease issues among their layer hens, and so in the lead up to the 2020 season Dr Kenny’s consultancy work focused on implementing a robust disease reduction plan to better protect the health of the birds and to sustain good production levels. In order to monitor disease levels, St David’s Game Bird Services are able to liaise with local laboratories on the ground, who take samples and run tests as requested, and feedback to Dr Kenny in the UK for diagnosis, treatment and prevention protocols to be put into place.

In addition to this, through the consultancy relationship the Lighthouse Station has also introduced a new water sanitation programme and a rearing supplement programme to improve the gut health of the birds. St David’s have also introduced them to a number of energy, probiotic and acid products throughout the rear to support the development of the bird throughout this life stage.

Discussing the relationship with Dr Kenny and St David’s Game Bird Services, Mr Ralph said, ‘Kenny has become one of the most important members of our team at Lighthouse Station. We have built a great working relationship using my iPhone to record video updates on the birds and sending photos to Kenny using Whatsapp to communicate with each other. Since our work started together Kenny has been able to help us achieve best practice and excellent results at an incredible pace. Where previously we would be content with losses, now I am concerned if we have mortality of 1 in 1,000 in a single day.

The inclusion of acid products, although a challenge to find supply in New Zealand, have been a game changer. Similarly, the introduction of chick paper for new hatches has made a huge difference, as we were previously losing more than usual to starve outs due to sawdust consumption, and changes made to our controlled lighting have also positively contributed to our results. The extensive knowledge that Kenny brings, along with being able to communicate so swiftly on Whatsapp means that we’re able to move quickly on any issues that would otherwise become significant, as game bird veterinary support on the ground in New Zealand is fairly limited.’

Despite New Zealand facing challenges this season due to the impact and restrictions imposed following Covid, the Lighthouse has been fortunate to be able to reallocate shoot days and have managed to have around 16 very successful days with guns on the ground.

Looking forward to the 2021 season which starts 1st May, the Lighthouse have so far produced two batches of birds, with the first batch now released and looking fantastic, and the second batch at around 28 days old are doing very well. The birds are looking strong, and similarly to game farmers and keepers in the UK, the team are looking forward to a busy and much smoother season, leaving the challenges of 2020 behind them.

In the coming months Dr Kenny and Guy will be continuing to work on disease reduction strategies and efficiencies on site to better improve the health and welfare of the birds, as well as streamlining the laying, hatchery and rearing processes to increase returns for the shoot.

If you would like to find out more about our international consultancy work, please contact our team by emailing or by calling 01392 872 932.

To see more of the Lighthouse Station, click the link below to watch their Youtube video, showcasing the New Zealand shoot day experience: