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Poultry World - On my Farm - Jul 2015

Jul 23, 2015

Robert reflects on farming broilers in the heat of summer – and the constant threat of avian influenza.

As I sit here, writing this article in the middle of July, it has been the perfect day for growing broilers; a warm 20C, cloudy but with low
humidity. Just two weeks ago, here in sunny Devon, it was a different story altogether.

The temperatures were in the mid to high 20s, full, bright sun and warm nights. When most people with young families were rushing off to the glorious Jurassic coastline and enjoying the endless amounts of natural vitamin D, we were phoning around our farms to find out who had reached what temperature.

We have a supply of 4ft fans we can move around to some of our older buildings to supplement ventilation when the heat is on. But to be fully compliant with IPPC, it has to be authorised on the permit. This is easier to attain if they are listed as “For extreme summer use
only”. I do wonder how many people are using additional summer ventilation, unaware they may be breaking their permit.

During the hot weather we have always gone into the sheds and walked the birds on a continuous rotation. In my opinion this stirs the birds up and allows any hot air to rise between the litter and the bird. I have heard many people say the chickens are best left. However, after
walking a shed, the house temperature will always rise, which convinces me we have released trapped hot air.

Some of our sheds have a spray cooling systems. Every year I convince myself we should start a rolling programme to fit a cooling system
to all our sheds, but when our short summers end my thoughts turn elsewhere.

Texts and emails have been flying recently from the NFU and other poultry organisations after the recent avian influenza outbreak near
Preston. This may be a long way from us, but it is another reminder
that it is a constant threat to us all.
During some recent audits we have had to set up biosecurity reviews. This has been a great opportunity to actually look at what we are
doing and, as a result, we have made some changes.  For example, I now sign in and out of the farms. Because I move around so much I am actually one of the bigger risks.
We now have coloured boots – black strictly for outdoors and green strictly for in the sheds. These changes cost very little, but I feel do make a difference. The campylobacter barrier comes into its own too, not only for campy, but also as a good procedure to stop all diseases.
Unfortunately, some biosecurity costs more. We are about to start putting up some new buildings and have now upgraded our entrance shed to allow access into the farm through a dedicated changing room and shower, although it is not compulsory (yet). That aside, I still need to convince the bank manger of its value.

Devonshire Poultry comprises six farms in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, growing 3.5 million chickens a year for a leading integrator.

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Photographs by www.rachelpalmer.co.uk