Alan Beynon BVM&S MRCVS
While there have been many concerns and worries around the impact of COVID on the shooting sector there are also a number of benefits that have been realised which hopefully we can take advantage of in the future.
The reduction in stock reared has led to a reduction in disease pressure, and similarly while COVID appears to have had an increased impact in areas of high human population, we have noticed a reduction in game bird diseases as the number of birds placed on a rearing field or a release pen has reduced.
My interest will be to see the effect of this reduction on both flying ability and return percentages as shooting commences. While bird health is high, undoubtedly the sport is significantly improved in all aspects.
The incidence of mycoplasma has also reduced and this is likely to be a combination of increased testing and surveillance as well as a reduction in the total population. While we start planning for next years breeding season we now have the best opportunity ever to control this costly and stressful disease within our national flock.
Selection of parent stock will be challenging as the supply is reduced, however the testing for mycoplasma to create a clean breeding unit will harvest its rewards. I have met several game farmers looking at this opportunity and starting to replicate the system that has proved so successful in France.
Add to this the impact of Brexit, however this looks at the end of this year, and we may see that we home produce more chicks further improving our sustainability and creating more control over the health and welfare of our game birds.
The increased time afforded to us has also made many look at the Game businesses that they run and start to ask questions. As a sector we have traditionally accepted what we do as being the correct way of running the business while many are now questioning how they operate, and the costs involved.
We are seeing a degree of restructuring and improved efficiency with the streamlining of operations. Game farmers either giving up hatching or becoming dedicated to breeding and hatching and leaving the rearing to others for instance. Once the costs are examined in many cases it’s better to order from a trusted supplier. This in turn has led to the dedicated business then asking advice on overwintering stock, testing and how to feed them correctly.
Several businesses have then started the process of BGA registration and approval. The process does not all have to be done at once but many aspects of record keeping and improved traceability sets them above a supplier with none of this information.
Having time to stop and think has led to many moving forwards, creating change to become more efficient and more sustainable and to create a business with more solid foundations. We as vets are becoming heavily involved in this change giving advice to promote the best health possible and to reduce risk.
Originally written for The Sportsman Review.