Category Archive: News

  1. Self-Regulation Works for Game Sector

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    The substantial drop in the use of drugs in the game bird sector is vindication of this approach, says Richard Leach, national sales and marketing manager with Keepers Choice 

    Overuse of antibiotics affects the game and livestock sector as well as the public at large. Most of us know that antibiotics cannot be prescribed as a fix all and, if overused, cease to be a fix at all.

    The game sector has halved its use of antibiotics since 2016 and has a target to reduce it by a further 25% over the next two years. At Keepers Choice, 9.8% of game feed contained antibiotics in 2017, with the figure down to 4% in 2018.

    Progress

    Professor Peter Borriello, chief executive officer of The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), has hailed the figures as impressive and applauded the Game Farmers Association (GFA) for mobilising the industry. In particular, he praised game farmers, gamekeepers and vets for their commitment to tackle the issue.

    While the need to reduce antibiotic use has been government driven, principally through the World Health Organisation (WHO), considerable progress has been achieved through self-regulation. This necessitates expertise on the ground, a consequence of which is to drive up standards.

    The reduced use of antibiotics has seen more gamekeepers revert to a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach. This has heightened the need for fit and healthy birds, which in turn has placed a greater emphasis on husbandry.

    Whatever the successes, one can never fully eradicate rogue practice, and we still hear stories of the odd vet prescribing antibiotics where others have refused. Keepers Choice always recommend using vets with experience of game birds.

    The vast majority of gamekeepers are responsible and have been pivotal in driving down antibiotic use. The days of using medicated feed ‘just in case’ have gone; increasingly, the focus is on treating actual disease outbreaks.

    Feed plays a vital role in helping realise fit and healthy birds. Through formulation it is possible to create a feed that can promote gut health, improve digestibility, and attain optimum growth and development. At Keepers Choice we include – as appropriate – enhanced proteins to help absorption and utilisation of amino acids, organic acids and natural oils to support gut health and reduce bacterial contamination, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids to improve survival rates.

    Our advice to game keepers has always been never to be tempted to use lower diet specifications and to check that phosphate – sometimes in short supply – is always included at the optimum rate.

    Ingredients

    Formulations to help attain fit and healthy birds require access to a wide range of feed ingredients – dependence on a narrow band of materials will undermine the validity of growing stock. Apart from essential vitamins and minerals – calcium, phosphorus and vitamins D and E – too high a reliance on cereals should also be avoided.

    The game sector has set itself a further 25% reduction in antibiotics between now and 2020, and the GFA has established a five-point plan to this end. It involves best practice in the areas of game management (emphasising biosecurity); prescribing antibiotics (encouraging the use of vets who are familiar with gamebirds); recordkeeping; sharing information between relevant organisations (gamekeepers, vets, breeders); clamping down on illegality (using antibiotics that have not been legally prescribed and/or sourced).

    Perhaps the success of the game sector in reducing antibiotics is down to its desire to stay self-regulated. But that only partly explains the story. The game sector is fiercely independent and believes itself best qualified to do what is right by the countryside and its way of life. The unfolding narrative on antibiotics would support this notion as correct. Self-regulation ensures expertise on the ground, for which there is no substitute.

     

     

  2. CHOOSING THE RIGHT FEED WILL PAY DIVIDENS THIS SEASON

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    When preparing for a new season, there is a checklist to be followed on management, health and feed to ensure birds are grown to be strong, fit and healthy.

    Energy Level

    Energy is required by the bird for both maintenance of the body and for growth. Furthermore, energy content of the feed influences feed intake. As energy content increases, then feed intake will reduce as the bird meets its energy requirement. This is very important for the value of a feed.

    A low energy feed will be cheaper than a higher energy feed, but the birds will eat more of the low energy feed and the overall feed cost is likely to be higher.

    How should a keeper choose?

    A simplistic choice could be made on lowest price per tonne, but this could be a false economy both in terms of the feed not supplying sufficient nutrients to achieve the aim of maximum number of good quality birds, and a higher intake and use of feed resulting in a greater overall cost.

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    Protein Quality

    The Crude Protein content of the feed can be achieved in many ways. It is important to have feeds that have been formulated with good quality materials and which achieve the desired levels of digestible amino acids.

    If this is not the case, then part of the nutrition will be wasted and there will be an energy cost to the bird which could result in increased feed intake without any benefit to the birds.

    Mineral Nutrition

    The feeds need to have targeted levels of Calcium and Phosphorus. For optimum feed quality, the levels of these minerals need to be optimised to meet the needs of the birds. This will result in good skeletal development, giving birds with strong legs and wings.

    Vitamin Package

    A good supply of vitamins is essential to ensure the birds are suitably supported to grow well. Ensuring high levels of vitamins have a multitude of positive effects on the birds. From simply allowing the birds to develop and grow well, through to supporting the immune system and thus keeping the birds healthy, onto interacting with minerals to ensure good bone strength, vitamins play a vital role.

    Again, it’s possible to have cheaper feeds with lower vitamin levels, but overall performance of the birds will likely be affected and utilisation of the other nutrients in the feed will be reduced.

    Raw Materials

    Whilst most feeds on the market will be broadly similar in terms of the materials used to make up the rations, there will be some areas of differentiation and it is worth looking at material declarations to ensure a good proportion of high quality whole products are used, with an absence of lower quality by-product materials.

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    Physical Quality and Palatability

    Although important for birds of all ages, this is particularly important for birds in the first few weeks of life, when intakes are low and the value of a good quality crumb or pellet that is attractive to the bird can help to maximise nutrient intake and drive the bird on.

    Summary

    When making a choice on feed, it is worth looking beyond the headline price and giving as a minimum a little consideration to the quality of the feed and spending a bit of time considering how the feed could benefit the birds and what the overall cost of nutrition is when feed intake is taken into account. 

    A little bit of time spent in this part of the preparation can pay dividends in the season ahead.

    Please contact us to discuss your feed requirements for this season on 01489 780033 or sales@keeperschoice.co.uk – To view our full product range click here.

  3. GAMEBIRDS AND WATER – THE OVERLOOKED NUTRIENT

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    Gamebirds and water – It cannot be stressed enough that gamebirds need a clean, hygienic supply of water.

    With much expected of today’s gamefarmers and keepers, such as controlling budgets and assessing the quality and price of game feed, water can often be an overlooked nutrient. Yet we should not forget that all animals, including us humans, can survive for longer without food than water. Water is the lifeblood of any gamebird enterprise – it is key to productivity, body temperature and food digestion.

    According to the Game Farmers Guide written by the GFA, is that likely consumption per 100 birds, per day, in litres is:

    Clean drinking water key to performance

    Shortfalls in the quality of drinking water for gamebirds can lead to a poor performance and a possibility of an over-reliance on antibiotics – the very thing the industry is striving to reduce. And the notion that mains-supplied water must be good for gamebirds come-what-may is true only to a point (mains water can become contaminated like any other).  

    The initial quality is not the issue; problems tend to stem from the water lines that supply the drinkers. According to Stephen Bowen, technical poultry specialist with Potters Poultry, in Farmers Weekly, Water sitting in pipes in warm sheds offers an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, algae and other microorganisms. Also, some water tanks are high up in the shed or bird area, raising temperatures further.

    This highlights the importance of ensuring water is free-flowing: this requires lines to be flushed and cleaned regularly; and demonstrates the need to keep pipes and tanks as cool as possible.

    The nature of gamebirds being free to roam outdoors can also increase the risk posed to the birds through contamination. When roaming, birds often peck faeces and mud and then return to the drinkers. This highlights why drinkers should be regularly inspected and cleaned.

    Sources, systems and solutions

    There are several water sources that can used – mains water being the most obvious. Mains water holds many advantages, for example it will already have been filtered, tested and treated before it comes out of the tap; which immediately lowers the risk of microorganisms and other pollutants being present.

    Another option is a borehole. However, this carries an increased risk of contamination compared with mains, especially if the borehole is shallow. The types of bacteria that have been found in boreholes include E.Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter – there is also the associated risk of Avian Influenza.

    Choosing the appropriate drinkers is another vital consideration: they must achieve ease of access, cleanliness, minimal spillage and the ability to cater for the birds needs as they grow.

    Many modern floor drinkers have a raised platform with collecting trays underneath, meaning the birds won’t be drinking dirty water from wet puddles. However, this doesn’t avoid the issue of droppings in the area, or contamination from aerial dust. Nipple systems are generally considered to be more hygienic, but if it weeps puddles of dirty water will develop – and it is crucial that it is the right height for the birds. Hanging bell drinkers are another option, but even these require daily cleaning.

    Investing in a water sanitising system can be extremely cost-effective. It is exceptionally safe and does not affect colour, taste or odour. But be sure to read the instructions!   

    Microbial Water Quality Standards for Gamebird Drinking Water

    Water is presumed safe if it has a zero microbial population, provided that mineral content is at safe levels and undesired contaminants are not present. However, presence of microbes in water is not always correlated with disease in flocks unless it increases above a certain infectious level.

    The following are the summary parameters for water quality:

    1. Colour, Taste, and Odour- Drinking water for gamebirds must be clear, tasteless, odourless, and colourless.
    2. Bacteria- Bacteria contamination of water can be an indication of contamination by organic material.
    3. Physical and Chemical Characteristics- The acidity or alkalinity of water is expressed as pH level. Gamebirds prefer water with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8 but can tolerate a pH range of 4 to 8.
    4. Hardness refers to the amount of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, in water.
    5. Mineral Content
    6. Nitrates and Nitrites
    7. Sulphate (SO4)
    8. Phosphate (PO4)- High levels of phosphate may indicate water contamination from sewage.
    9. Sodium (Na)
    10. Chloride (Cl)
    11. Magnesium (Mg)
    12. Manganese (Mn)
    13. Copper (Cu)
    14. Calcium (Ca)
    15. Iron (Fe)

    According to St. David’s Game Bird, “All sites at times may have potential issues with their water either in storage or in line, regardless of being on a bore hole or mains supply” and therefore, accurate and exact testing of water samples is imperative. For instructions on how to take an accurate water sample, click here and head over to St. David’s Game Bird Services.

    To conclude

    Clean, hygienic drinking water for gamebirds at all stages of development is essential.

    A lack of quality drinking water can lead to poor performance, an increase in the use of antibiotics, and will ultimately lower the standard and enjoyment of the shoot. It can also impact on us as game feed manufacturers, with many people blaming feed for issues that are often caused by poor quality drinking water. The bottom line is – If you wouldn’t drink it, then neither should your birds!

  4. What Affects the Price of Game Feed?

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    With the 2018 season already feeling like a distant memory, people from across the game shooting sector already have their eyes set on the 2019 season – and we are no different.

    Sales of Breeder diets are up and are being delivered out to game farms and keepers who have been working hard to get their hens in the best shape for laying. Many farms will be starting to pick up a greater volume of eggs now and we are beginning to see starter crumb orders coming in.

    As many will be aware, the price of game feed can fluctuate from season to season, and even during the season, with a multitude of factors having an impact on price. Quality of the feed, raw material supply chains and weather conditions are just a few of the elements that often have an effect on the end feed price.

    An appropriate place to start is the product itself. As a company, we think it is vital to formulate a diet for performance, and not cost per tonne, as key. Game feed formulated to a price, with inferior ingredients, will definitely be cheaper – but equally it will be counter-productive. Poults and birds fed on lower grade diets will rarely develop into healthy, adult birds and the below par performance of these birds will be clearly visible.

    The buyers screen at Duffields, used to establish the price of game feed.
    The daily peaks and troughs of a busy buyer at Duffields

    At Keepers Choice, to help the birds thrive, certain additives are incorporated into the range as standard to promote feed safety and hygiene, gut health and digestibility. We use proven additives such as Natupro, Genex and Omega 3 – all of which contribute towards general performance of the birds. Despite this meaning extra cost, we are certain that it is worth it.

    One of the most significant areas impacting cost when producing game feed is the ability to purchase raw materials at a competitive cost. Every feed manufacturer buys from the same pool of feed materials, takes advice from brokers and interprets the market themselves through various information, graphs and charts. Therefore, to maintain a margin and remain competitive, companies must plan ahead and buy well. It could be said that the ability to buy the all-important raw materials at a good price is more significant than anything.

    At Keepers Choice, we are able to buy sensibly and well due to an amalgamation of factors. First, we have a proven trade history, which is reassuring to suppliers. We have long-established supply chains allowing us to specify what we want before the ship leaves, rather than take what’s available at the port upon the ship’s return. And, perhaps most importantly, we have buyers with years of experience, who know the market and who buy little and often – allowing us to cover our materials properly before making commitment to sales.

    There are many factors that can affect the raw materials market, and this is another consideration we must take into account when buying. For example, currency exchange, availability, weather conditions, Brexit, oil prices, and of course, Donald Trump’s attitude and tweets towards China all impact the market massively and contribute to what is a rather volatile market place.

    However, the most prominent issue currently is Brexit. Duffields head buyer commented: “All of our contracts currently hold a clause on tariffs instructing that any changes will be applied to contracted prices.  Even for domestic material, a change in tariffs impacts the prices as potentially negative for imports and therefore lead to domestic demand being greater. Political uncertainty is causing huge swings in currency with wide trading ranges predicted.  This makes forward buying increasingly difficult, not knowing what a good price is”.

    As you can see, there are countless trends that can impact upon the price of feed. Keepers Choice knows that cutting corners to sell cheap is a false economy. Any drop in performance would be quickly recognised, and we would never risk the excellent reputation that we have spent over 40 years building. We released our new price list in the middle of last month, and thanks to some good buying have not had to hike our prices to the extent of some other game feed manufactures. Please get in touch on 01489 780033 or email us at sales@keeperschoice.co.uk for more information.

  5. The Game Farmers’ Association AGM

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    In early February Keepers’ Choice national sales and marketing manager, Richard Leach, and game & poultry specialist Jack Fellows attended the Game Farmers’ Association’s (GFA) Annual General Meeting.

    As it is every year, the meeting was well attended and extremely informative. It is always a good opportunity for game farmers and trade members to catch up before the new rearing season starts; and a chance for current issues to be discussed.

    Unsurprisingly, one topic on the agenda was Brexit. Discussions on this focussed on how it could potentially affect the season ahead of us and how it could impact on egg prices, labour and feed costs going forward. The overall summary was that forward planning is a must. Although, admittedly, it is difficult to plan for something that we are yet to know the outcome of.

    Antibiotic reduction was also on the list to be discussed, and it seems that as an industry we have made a great start, but still have further to go. The need for quality feed, robust biosecurity, good stockmanship and responsibly sourced game were also touched upon.

    We would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Paul Jeavons from Worcestershire Game Farm for being awarded the prestigious Pat Robbins Trophy for his continuous hard work representing the Game Farmers Association and all its members.

    We are proud to be a corporate sponsor of the Game Farmers Association and feel that it is an exceptionally worthwhile cause. If you are rearing birds on a game farm or even rearing birds for your own shoot, it is of paramount importance that you become a member of the GFA. They offer an incredible amount of support along with many other benefits. Associate Membership is available to other individuals or organisations who sympathise with the aims of the GFA and who wish to be kept in touch with its affairs.

    ​All members receive the full colour GFA member magazine three times a year and are entitled to use the GFA name and logo in their promotional campaigns. ​Members also receive the GFA Game Farming Guide. This is a substantial ring-bound publication of best practice guidance, which is written by experts and kept up to date as the industry develops and improves.

    For more information on the GFA, please click here

  6. Preparing Birds for the Breeding Season

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    Having birds fit and healthy at the start of the breeding season is vital for successful egg and chick production. The breeding birds need to be in the right condition in the weeks leading up to breeding. Nutrition can play an important role in optimising the bird condition. Hens need to have sufficient condition and nutrient reserves to support egg production and maximise fertility and ultimately chick quality, but do not want to be over-conditioned (i.e. Fat). Whilst breeder diets are very well specified to deliver all the nutrients a laying bird requires, the protein and energy levels are not best suited for birds ahead of the production period.

    Hen Pheasant getting ready for breeding season
    A Hen Pheasant


    Getting birds in the right condition ahead of the breeding season can be achieved by using a maintenance or pre-breeder diet for a few weeks ahead of being brought into lay. This will ensure the birds are in good condition and fit, with the correct nutrition reserves being built up. Also, it will supply appropriate levels of minerals, notably calcium and phosphorus. For breeding birds, these levels are critical with both being essential for good shell formation. Interestingly, whilst it is often assumed that it is a case of “the more the merrier” with these minerals it is important not to have too much phosphorus and calcium. An oversupply of calcium before the birds start laying can result in the bird ‘habitually’ excreting excess calcium which can lead to poor quality egg shells when the bird starts production.


    So, it is worth considering your nutrition strategy with birds heading into the breeding season, and it is worth a discussion to get the best feed for this stage of production.

    For anymore information on our Maintenance and Breeder diets, or to discuss this further, please contact 01489 780017 / 01508 470661 and we will put you in touch with your local game feed agent.

  7. GREEN BREXIT BRINGS OPPORTUNITY

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    With Defra boss Michael Gove having set out his image of a ‘Green Brexit’ in 2018, it is worth considering the impact this will have on shooting and the wider industry. The Government is keen to encourage farmers to more proactively engage with conservation projects; and the new Agricultural Bill will seek to reward rather than compensate good works which benefit people and the environment. 

    Inevitably, this will lead to farmers sowing more stewardship crops for farmland birds and pollinators, as well as taking part in a greater number of supplementary feeding programmes. Could this ‘Green Brexit’ also lead to an increase in shoots run by farmers? Or to an increase in smaller shoots in general?

    Keepers Choice’s national sales and marketing manager, Richard Leach, suggests: “If farmers are going to see an increase in payments for conservation and environmental schemes in general, then  more land going into these schemes should encourage an increase in farm shoots, whether syndicated or otherwise.  Many of the game and conservation crops now available are designed to feed farmland birds, so it all fits together nicely.”

    “It is likely that the position post-Brexit will also see an increase in smaller shoots being set up as well as smaller existing shoots putting down more birds, and further enhancing the habitat through various schemes”.

    It is worth considering how a ‘Green Brexit’ and the new Agricultural Bill and its payment policies will affect the bigger, more established shoots. It is important to note, as many will be aware, that the implementation of stewardship and supplementary feeding schemes is nothing new and therefore many of the larger shoots will already be embracing Higher Level Stewardship (HLS), Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and Countryside Stewardship. However, the new bill and its commitment to a ‘Green Brexit’ is seeing a wider understanding and greater promotion of these schemes. This will almost certainly lead to large estates entering either new or existing schemes because of the financial incentive, and new shoots are also likely to emerge in this way.

    Stewardship crops will increase following a Gren Brexit
    A stewardship mixture – ‘Pheasant & Finch’ – from Bright Seeds

    A key benefit of more shoots being established, whether large or small, is the opportunities that are created. Quite simply, more opportunity means an increased number of new entrants into shooting – which can only be a good thing. This could lead to a further increase of youth and female shots, two groups that are already on the rise.

    Richard Leach points out that, “Any shoot is reliant on the beaters and for the most part the beating and picking up teams are made up of retired individuals who are active and interested in being out in the countryside: an increase in shoot numbers would encourage more people to beat and pick up. Retired people who beat or pick up must be one of the fittest groups of retirees in the country”.

    As a company, Keeper Choice is well placed to facilitate this potential increase, and we would welcome the business and the opportunity to see new entrants within the industry. Mr. Leach, a veteran of the industry for over thirty years, suggests: “Keepers Choice has an experienced sales team to advise new entrants into shooting – we have several mills and distribution points and an excellent transport network delivering feed from one tonne upwards”.

    An increase in the number of shoots is good news for the industry, but there is a note of caution. The first is regulation, or over-regulation. If Mr Gove’s ‘Green Brexit’ is deliverable and farmers are paid on results, presumably areas would need to be inspected, no doubt requiring an army of civil servants. There is the possibility that these inspections could trespass into other areas of shooting. We know that responsible gamekeepers and shoot owners are more than capable of regulating themselves and their own shoots, and it is important this continues.

    The second point to watch is, what happens to the bag? There has been a lot of work done recently to ensure the bag goes to good use:  The Country Food Trust feeding people in need is a good example. Smaller shoots do generally have an easier time of finding a home for shot game and it could create a greater opportunity for small shoots to supply local markets and butchers.

    There is no doubt that Michael Gove’s ‘Green Brexit’ presents many positives. If delivered properly the industry will be able to create habitats and conservation areas that benefit the environment even more so than it currently does. For example, according to Countryfile on Sunday January 13, 2019, a farm which embraced a supplementary feeding scheme (approx. 400 acres) over a ten-year period saw species of bird double to over twenty and numbers increased ten-fold whilst the rest of the land was farmed with a healthy profit – demonstrating how well such schemes can integrate into a working farm.

    To read Michael Gove’s full keynote speech on his vision, please follow the link – https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/green-brexit-a-new-era-for-farming-fishing-and-the-environment

  8. GAME FEED – RIGHT PRODUCT, RIGHT PLACE AND RIGHT TIME

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    When manufacturing animal feed, it is of upmost importance that the correct product is delivered to the right place, at the right time. Due to the relatively narrow sales window for game feed – compared to, say,dairy feed – this becomes even more significant. Therefore, proper protocol is essential to meet our high standard of customer satisfaction.

    If game farmers and keepers are left without adequate game feed for their birds, the knock-on effect can be serious. If the birds don’t receive the right feed on time, this can affect their development and their health. If the birds become stressed and unwell, medicated game feed is often required. And, with the game bird industry making every effort to cut down on the use of antibiotics (AB), this goes against our AB reduction targets. Antibiotic issues aside, if the keepers and game farmers don’t get their order on time, it can create needless stress and problems for them – something we do our upmost to avoid.

    Due to the time sensitive and highly important nature of every game feed order we receive, we have in place a simple system that relies on regular communications between departments, including sales, production, quality control, deliveries, customer service and management.    

    First, sales agents automatically receive notification of their customer’s orders. This simple step means that the agent can review the order that has been placed, if there is something not right with the order, the agent can immediately contact customer services, who will then rectify the issue. This ensures that what is produced is correct, without any time being wasted. Once the order has been placed and is in production at the mill, our customer service team contact the customer 24 hours before the expected delivery day togive estimated ETA. This allows the customer to plan their upcoming days around the delivery time.  

    Keepers Choice Pen MIll with bags of game feed
    The mill with feed ready to go…

    A further element that assists our excellent customer service is the short chain of command at Keepers Choice. We have three transport managers and three mill managers across our three mills, and just a single customer service point that everything is channelled through. By only having one customer service point we are able to keep all customer service issues among one team, which helps us see any consistent short comings or complaints. In some instances, production and transport even share the same office. This short chain of communication ensures efficiency and prevents the problems which inevitably occur when there are too many people involved. We also have a very experienced sales team that react quickly to any issues that may arise. Our customer service team are able to issue prescriptions for Flubenvet – this has helped speed up the process when only Flubenvet is required in feed.

    For orders to be completed as smoothly as possible, the ideal scenario is as follows:

    The Customer or agent places an order on a Thursday or Friday for delivery by the following Friday, with a two-day delivery window. Customer service put the order on the system, which is then allocated to production and transport – standard feed should be with the customer within 3-5 working days of placing order.

    If the order is for medicated game feed, customer services will request the prescription from the customers vet; we DO NOT make or dispatch medicated feed without a valid prescription. If the prescription is received the same day, production can begin to plan to make the medicated feed, which involves ‘flushing’ the line in order the stop any cross contamination. As difficult as we know it is to plan for medicated feed, please allow 5-7 working days from placing the order, often deliveries are made well in time of delivery window.

    Keepers Choice Starter Feed
    Keepers Choice Starter Feed…

    Although we do everything that we can to assist customerswho order late, sometimes this is out of our control. The transport team plan two or three days ahead and any late orders can result in other customers loads being cut back, or late delivery of the ordered load – neither make us very popular! Regardless of any problems, we endeavour to keep the customer informed and up-to-date on the situation and to ensure timely delivery.

    Another benefit of dealing with Keepers Choice is that we are able to make bespoke batches of game feed in as little as two or three tonne lots for individual requirements. Regardless of the batch size, a sample (or several samples depending on the size of the batch) is taken and held for three months in case the batch needs to be referred to. Every single bag of Keepers Choice feed has a batch number on and therefore can be traced back to time of production, formulation and even who was working on that shift – this helps considerably with quality control issues.

    Quality control is a cornerstone of Keepers Choice feed and something that we pride ourselves on. Our quality control begins with the all-important raw materials. All of our raw materials are sourced on specification, for example protein and energy levels, therefore every load of raw materials received is tested for the specification. This means that we are making our feed with high quality, tested raw materials. Another aspect of our quality control regime involves screening and sieving our feed to ensure over, or under-sized foreign bodies do not make it into the bags. As we know, dusty gamefeed is something everybody wants to avoid, but over-sized pellets or bits of feed can also prevent the birds from consuming the feed.  

    Keepers Choice are certified by The Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS).

  9. Antibiotics – Usage Falls for Second Consecutive Year

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    The Game Farmers’ Association (GFA) announced last week that gamebird producers have, once again, massively reduced the use of antibiotics. Since the industry’s voluntary campaign to reduce antibiotics began two years ago overall use has fallen by 51%; with antibiotics incorporated in gamebird feed down a remarkable 70%.  

    As we know, over-reliance and over usage of antibiotics in the gamebird and farming industry could potentially lead to difficulties. There has already been an increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria found across the globe. When a human is infected with a bacterium that has grown resistant to antibiotics, the illness becomes harder to treat, the cost of treatment is increased, and the chances of mortality increase markedly.  

    As the gamebird and farming industry was warned several years ago, much of this resistance can begin with the food chain. The NHS agree that the threat is real, “drug-resistant strains could be passed to humans more generally when they prepare or eat the meat” and the gamebird sector have taken upon themselves to solve this issue – clearly with great success.  

    However, it is not just the gamebird industry fighting back against antibiotic resistance. For example, poultry farmers have several systems in place, such as areas colour coded and designated to specific ages of birds and specific colour of clothing – this is designed to reduce cross contamination. Poultry farms also make use of a robotic farm assistant, this allows farmers to isolate sick birds and treat them before bacterial infections spread.  

    Pig farms, on the other hand, are using monitoring devices to record the coughs of pigs. Any animals not sounding right is isolated and treated, thereby stopping the practise of treating the entire herd. This is something that the gamebird sector also attributes to its massive reduction, with the GFA saying “The difference reflects a continuing focus on treating actual disease outbreaks rather than feeding medicated rations ‘just in case’”. 

    As well as the GFA, the latest statement highlighting the reduction on antibiotic use was also welcomed by The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Countryside Alliance (CA), the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association. 

    The gamebird sector should feel a great pride in how well the voluntary reduction of antibiotics has gone so far, however we can’t be complacent and must continue on this path. By continuing with this success, the industry will hopefully be left alone by the government, preventing involuntary reductions set by the government from materialising – something that nobody in the industry wants to happen. 

     For the full report by The Game Farmers’ Association on gamebird reduction, click here.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  10. Holding Mixes to Help Returns

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    We are now mid-way through October and the majority of shoots have made a start on their days, birds are now mainly being fed on wheat or holding mixes, with a few still feeding pellets.

    At this time of the year you may find that pellet consumption falls. If they are younger, the intention may have been to keep them on higher protein. Or, if you want to keep energy up, a higher specification diet is required. Unfortunately, this won’t always go to plan, they will almost certainly get to a stage where they start to flick the pellets out in preference to the wheat.

    If this is the case, it is important to make sure your wheat is of good quality and protein content isn’t under 9-10%. If it is, you could look at mixing in whole maize or split maize.

    Maize has good levels of energy and protein and is very palatable, it will also help towards keeping the birds interested. Maize is around 16% in protein, so this is quite a bit higher than wheat. Yes, maize is more expensive and not all shoots will have enough in the budget to buy extra food, but if you do then it could be a good option to help towards end of season returns and ensuring birds are getting enough nutrients throughout the colder months.

    With some of the game crops this year not being as fruitful due to the weather, you may not be able to rely on them as much towards the end of the season. For example, the quality and quantity of maize cobs in your crops might not be there.

    Instead, another option is holding mixes! Our holding mixes are made up of high-quality raw materials such as wheat, sunflower, red & white millet, split peas, soya oil and red and white dari.

    Holding mixes are more expensive than plain wheat, however these mixes can be fed with wheat to make sure they last longer. Feeding at two, three or even four to one is fine. The holding mixes all contain soya oil and concentrated aniseed oil which we have found to be very effective in holding birds, it also helps add a shine to the feed and adds attractiveness to game birds.

    With the price rises we have seen this year, it’s important to try and make end of season returns as high as possible.

    EXAMPLE:

    If you could shoot an extra 50 birds by using one tonne of holding mix which is (for example) £500 per tonne

    50 birds at £40 per bird (on average) 50 x 40 = £2000…

    Would you consider feeding holding mixes if you can save £1500?


    Keepers choice are able to provide Whole maize, split maize and we have a variety of holding mixes

    For up to date prices please contact the office…

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