Keeping poultry can be ‘fowl’ through winter bird flu season | Voice of a Farmer


A surge in people keeping their own poultry during the lock-down egg shortage could be why ‘bird flu’ is spreading from wild to domestic fowl, argues James Cossins

A Rawston Farm turkey. Two interesting turkey facts for you: only male turkeys gobble, and their poop identifies their gender (a male’s poop will be shaped like the letter J, while the female’s is more spiral-shaped!)

Here at Rawston farm we are all about producing and sourcing local. We don’t just rear our own beef; we also rear own Christmas turkeys for the butchery and shop.

We were pleased with the quality of our turkeys and have received positive feedback from customers. This is what gives me great pleasure in rearing our own turkeys – it is of huge concern
to us that we ensure a good Christmas dinner for you.
But rearing turkeys does have its challenges: one night we had a visit from Mr Fox who beat us to the birds’ evening lock-up and sadly took five turkeys as an early Christmas dinner. Greedy!
The winter is a challenging time for all poultry producers – and hobbyists should be aware too.
During covid, with a national shortage of eggs, many people wanting their own eggs bought chickens and ducks.
Bird flu (also known as avian influenza) is rife at this time of year. This year has been the worst the UK has seen, with currently 80 outbreaks across the country, and it’s not only in wild birds but also domestic birds. With current bird flu regulations, DEFRA advice is to keep all poultry inside or netted to prevent wild birds from coming into contact with poultry and to prevent wild birds from using the same food and water source. Please look at DEFRA’s website for more information.

Guarantee of high quality

As an Arla Milk producer we get regular audits from independent vets to look at our cattle from a health and welfare prospective.

This ensures that all Arla’s milk can be sold with a guarantee of high standards. As a producer we keep records of any health problems that may occur.
All medicines we use are recorded on a computerised system. Our own vet from the Damory Vet Practice has worked out our total medicine useage for the last year and determined whether our usage has changed and also how we compare with the other dairy producers within the practice. Our audit takes place next week and we are hoping that we meet their necessary requirements to continue with our Arla milk contract.
In the past vets have been helpful in advising where we can improve on any particular issues that we face. They are keen to see records where we have had the cows independently scored for mobility (for example, is there any lameness present) and the overall appearance of our cattle. Let’s hope for a positive outcome!

Winter feeding

We do out-winter some animals on a forage crop and bales of straw and silage. So far, this winter has been kind to them, apart from the wet period over Christmas.

We always try to choose free draining fields with hedges for shelter and often they can be in a more healthy environment than animals kept inside buildings through the winter.

As we move through February the days are finally getting longer, and hopefully there will no more bad winter weather.

by James Cossins

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