Category Archive: News

  1. CHRISTMAS TIME AT KEEPERS CHOICE

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    We are well into the final month of the year; Christmas is fast approaching and the 2019/20 shooting season is already over halfway – which is unfortunate to say the least.

    However, those of us who have the privilege of going shooting for the day, and all of us who enjoy a warm, close-knit Christmas full of happiness can count ourselves very lucky; as not everybody is so fortunate.

    We thought we would take the opportunity in our December blog to highlight two industry charities that we are proud to support at Keepers Choice, who work to help those not as fortunate – whether through helping to feed those in need, or help those struggling with mental health problems.

     

    The Country Food Trust

    The Country Food Trust (CFT) are a charity food producer making high quality, protein rich food that it donates to charities who need to feed people. Almost all of the meat used in these meals is British game that has come from shoots across the country. The charity is funded by individuals, companies, shoots, trusts and other charitable organisations – and Keepers Choice are very happy to be listed as a Key Supporter of the charity.

    The CFT have recently announced that it has provided over 450,000 meals to date since inception. One of the earliest aims of the charity was to provide one million meals in its first five years – a target that it is on track to meet! To date the charity has supplied over 450,000 meals, has used 420,000 Kgs of meat and supported a fantastic 1,042 charities.

    The charity has just launched its ‘Winter Appeal’ in which it will look to repeat the success of last years’ campaign and raise £100,000 to feed people in need this winter.

    As the charity say on their campaign page, “Crisp winter days in front of a fire contrast bleakly to cold nights on the street and we hope that everyone looking forward to Christmas will consider donating to this campaign”. It really is a case of ‘every little helps’. So, if you are able to, please donate to an excellent cause this Christmas by donating to The CFT Winter Appeal.

    To donate, please click HERE.

     

    The Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust

    The Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust (GWT) exists to support gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies, and their dependents past and present. We are very proud to support this excellent charity and their logo is now visible on our feed bags along with other industry organisations.

    GWT provides financial grants for gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies and their families in times of hardship, ill health and retirement. Small grants are available for young people making gamekeeping their career. The helpline is a key part of the service providing a confidential listening service with information and support on a wide variety of issues including health, retirement, redundancy, housing and employment issues.

    In 2020, the GWT is launching its ‘Year of the Gamekeeper’ initiative. This is a multi-organisational initiative which looks to raise the profile of gamekeepers and celebrate their unique position as custodians of the countryside – the initiative will also help sustain the long-term future of the GWT.

    The initiative seeks to raise £220,000 by the end of 2020, through empowering every gamekeeper and member of the shooting community to do one thing in 2020 to raise funds for the GWT… This could be hosting an event or simply donating.

    We will continue to show our support for this vitally important charity, if you would like to do the same, follow the link below to their JustGiving page a donate towards ‘The Year of the Gamekeeper’.

    DONATE HERE

     

    Keepers Choice

    We would like to take this opportunity to give some information regarding Christmas and New Year deliveries –

    • We will close for Christmas at 4pm on Tuesday 24th December and re-open at 830am on Friday 27th
    • For New Year, we will close at 4pm on Tuesday 31st December and re-open at 8.30am on Thursday 2nd

    Please order all pre-Christmas deliveries by Friday 13th December

    For deliveries on Friday 27th, Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st December, please order by Friday 20th December.

    For deliveries on, or shortly after Thursday 2nd January, please order by Monday 23rd.

    We would be grateful if ALL orders could have two or more days delivery option to help with production and transport planning at this very busy time.

    We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers for making 2019 another successful year at Keepers Choice, and by wishing each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

     

  2. The Challenge of Winter Game Diets

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    Our national sales and marketing manager, Richard Leach, looks at why the spotlight is on diets like never before and why the feed sector needs formulators, not fortune tellers… 

    More often than not, game feed rations are required to be of higher specification than is simply just ‘necessary’, otherwise there is a risk that two out of every five years will see fewer, poorer quality birds going to the guns.

    Over the past decade, a third of our summers have experienced lengthy heatwaves – a trend highly likely to continue. Game feed, particularly for young birds, has to cater for this eventuality every year – and we are, after all, formulators, not fortune tellers or weather forecasters. Much like in humans, high temperatures mean feed intake can be significantly reduced – during really hot spells like in 2018 by as much as 10% – so more concentrated diets are required if proper health status is to be maintained. Similarly, cold weather also demands high specification rations because birds run the risk of illness and losing body condition.

    A failure to uphold high nutritional standards will see a genuine rise in welfare issues – and can jeopardise achievements in other, important areas such as the reduction in antibiotic intake – healthy birds are less likely to fall ill. Diets fed in the first two weeks influence skeletal development, the risk of feather pecking, and plumage quality.

    It is important that the diet demonstrates it can supply the full nutrient value declared on the label. Normally, at this early phase, it would be expected for 50% plus of the ration to comprise primary ingredients such as wheat and soya. An over reliance on feed by-products can give the impression that protein levels are higher than is the case; because less of the nutrient is available to the bird on intake.

    But why raise the issue now? It is not that gamekeepers have suddenly taken their eye off the ball, or that compounders have moved towards lowered specifications (the standard of game feed in the UK is generally high); it is simply that the issue is more pertinent today than ever, and a timely reminder about the perils of getting it wrong is no bad thing.

    I predict that climate change, combined with an onset of new environmentally orientated policies, will place game nutrition at the top of the agenda like never before. Welfare and mortality rates are set to become indicators of good governance in a sector determined to maintain self-regulation. The integrity of diets will be fundamental to this, and whatever pressures for cost cutting, inclinations towards game feed becoming a commodity must be resisted!

    Perhaps more than in any other field, there is a case for game feed to be an ‘added value’ product. Gamekeepers, unlike their commercial counterparts in poultry production, have limited control over the birds’ environment in the first six to seven weeks, and almost no control thereafter when they are released from their pens. This gives increased exposure to the elements, so an equal focus on nutrition, in proportion with the environment and stage of development is one of the best sureties against illness and lagging birds.

    Apart from ensuring the presence of prerequisite vitamins and minerals – calcium, phosphorus and vitamins D and E – formulators who are serious about their work should have good supply channels and access to a wide range of feed ingredients – dependence on just a narrow band of materials will undermine the validity of growing stock.

    When consumption is low, feed must be designed to maximise nutritional intake to permit the natural development of the bird. Check your feed supplier has a policy of buying raw materials based on nutrient spec., to include bushel weight and dry matter. Low energy feeds mean high intakes, resulting in the birds eating more, and higher costs overall.

    Purchasers must look beyond the headline price and consider the benefit to the birds to be derived from the ration. Birds that have fallen behind are a financial drain and seldom prevail through adverse conditions.

    The challenge is every bit as great as high end commercial poultry production where feeds must promote gut health by helping reduce bacterial contamination; protein sources must have desired levels of digestible amino acids, which can be readily absorbed for development.

    The benefits of all this are healthy birds, high welfare and less mortality. Good for commercial reality – and the rigours of outside scrutiny that is already intensifying.

  3. AVIAN FLU WARNING IN MIGRATORY BIRDS

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    The UK government has issued a warning to anybody caring for birds, including game birds and ducks, to be alert to the threat of a winter avian flu outbreak – particularly in areas where migratory birds are more prevalent.

    The concern 

    The disease tends to be more prominent in the winter months, due to flocks of migratory wildfowl carrying the disease, and the cooling temperature has brought with it a concern that if there was to be an outbreak it would happen sooner rather than later. Earlier this month, the UK’s chief veterinary officer backed this thinking up by saying there was ‘an increasing risk’ of disease incursion from migrating birds.

    As well as there being general concern for the whole of the UK, the government has identified a list of High Risk Areas (HRAs) where there is increased risk. These are generally areas near where wild birds gather (particularly gulls and wild waterfowl) such as lakes, estuaries, marshland and coastal areas.

    By following the link here, you will be taken to an interactive map designed by the government that will allow you to check if your premises is within a HRA. If it is discovered that you are in a HRA – robust biosecurity measures are essential. 

    What to look out for 

    It is vital that avian flu, once present, is identified and dealt with quickly. This can prevent the disease from being spread to other birds and other areas. Generally, it is quite clear if a bird is suffering with avian flu, but if you are unaware or have not seen an unwell bird before, the symptoms to look out for include:

    • Diarrhoea
    • Gurgling
    • Swelling of the head
    • Breathing problems
    • Blue discolouration of the neck and throat
    • Coughing
    • Discharge from the eyes
    • Lack of appetite
    • Increased mortality

    The disease itself spreads from bird to bird by direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces. It is also possible for the disease to spread via contaminated feeders, water holders or by dirty vehicles, clothing and footwear – which is why good biosecurity is so important in the prevention of avian flu. One of the reasons an outbreak can be so hard to manage once it has happened is that the viruses – much like the common cold – mutate frequently. 

    Prevention

    As mentioned previously, there are many preventative measures that can be taken to minimise the risk of your birds contracting avian flu. A joint statement by the UK’s four chief veterinary officers said: “Good, robust biosecurity should be maintained at all times, including regularly cleaning and disinfecting the area where you keep birds and separating them from wild birds wherever possible”.

    There are several other methods to ensure good biosecurity practise, such as:

    • Keeping the area where birds live clean and tidy, controlling rats and mice and regularly disinfecting hard surfaces.
    • Always cleaning footwear before and after visits.
    • Placing feeders and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds and removing any spilled feed regularly.
    • Limit your game birds’ access to ponds and lakes – particularly areas that may have wildfowl around.

    Follow the link to read the governments full advice on biosecurity.

    Additionally, all bird keepers across the UK should register their birds on the Great Britain Poultry Register (GBPR). For owners of 50 birds or more, this is a legal requirement. However, keepers with under 50 birds are also strongly encouraged to register.

    DEFRA has said it is continuing to monitor the situation and any incursions of the disease and that it is working with the poultry and game bird industries to prevent any outbreaks.

     

     

     

     

     

  4. Feeding Options Post-Grower Diets – Jack Fellows

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    It is the time of the year that grower diets are slowing down and we are beginning to look at different feeding options. But, how is one to know when to move forward with diets and feeding plans? And, when should we change to contribute towards the best possible bird performance and the best possible bird returns?

    At Keepers Choice, we suggest a range of feeding options to cover all feed changeover scenarios – some of which are:

    1. Feeding Grower from 7-11/12 weeks and moving straight to wheat
    2. Feeding Grower from 7-13/14 weeks and to a withdrawal diet to maintain a high level of protein
    3. Feeding Grower from 7-13/14 weeks and moving to our 15% Covert Pellet
    4. Feeding Grower from 7-13/14 weeks and moving to wheat/maize mix
    5. Feeding Grower from 7-11/12 weeks then withdraw and feed a maintenance diet until the end of season

    Nutrition, cost and performance


    From early May, all game birds are fed on high protein diets that contain a multitude of vitamins, supplements, amino acids, oils, fats, fibres and a whole list of ingredients that meet the birds’ nutritional requirements. As each week passes, the diets gradually drop in protein and micronutrients to meet the birds’ ever-changing nutritional requirements.

    As we know, pheasants and partridges need to be performing like well-tuned athletes from September 1st to Feb 1st and it is up to us to provide them with the fuel they require.

    For example, if birds are dropped from a 20% grower diet to a 12/13% plain wheat diet, this sees a huge nutritional difference and can cause birds to wander more than they already are – often to look for more food. It is also important to have plenty of feeders and plenty of drinkers with clean, fresh water to prevent wandering further.

    feeding options - cut maize

    Generally, poultry will simply eat to fulfil their energy requirement, meaning feed consumption should be lower on a diet with a high energy content. For example, by feeding a plain wheat diet the birds are going to be missing out on energy and protein; leading to higher consumption, stalled feathering up and less weight gain.

    We would always recommend not being too quick to move over to wheat. We appreciate that there is a noticeable cost difference between pelleted feed and wheat but, as a lot of people have said in the past, “If you look after your birds, they’ll look after you” and a good diet and the correct feeding options are a key way of looking after your birds.

    Judging by the trend of the last few years, there is strong evidence to suggest that the demand for shooting in December and January is increasing and by feeding pellets for a longer period of time, returns will inevitably increase.  

     

    Holding mixes

     

    As well as pelleted feed, there are other feeding options to consider, such as holding mixes. Holding mixes are extremely attractive to game birds, hence the name. The holding mixes that we supply contain a range of different raw materials such as; wheat, cut maize, peas, red & white millet, dari, soya oil, aniseed and various other seeds too.

    Holding mixes can look expensive at face value, however, if you take one tonne of any holding mix at a standard rate of £470 per tonne, and you shoot 13 birds at the going rate of £38 per bird, you have covered the cost of the tonne. As well as that, you’ll be holding more birds which will be helping towards end of year returns – resulting in a happy boss!

    For more information on feeding options please call 01508 470661 or head over to our website www.keeperschoice.co.uk

    To contact me directly please call – 07793491999 or email me – jackfellows@duffields.co.uk

  5. What3Words could save a Gamekeepers life?

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    As we all know – Gamekeepers, stalkers, ghillies and various countryside enthusiasts often find themselves alone, in extremely remote locations. But, what happens when something goes wrong? How would an injured or unwell individual, in need of medical attention, contact emergency services and let them know EXACTLY where they are? Well, the team at What3Words have created an app that can do just this – pinpoint your position anywhere on earth to a 3m by 3m square.    

     

    What3Words

     

    What3Words is a free to download app and a fantastic innovation that has divided the entire globe into a grid of 57 trillion 3m by 3m (10ft by 10ft) squares, with each square having its own unique and simple three-word address – rather than complicated and confusing coordinates. The free smartphone app allows the user to pinpoint the square they are occupying by the three-word address. For example, ‘filled.count.soap’ marks the exact entrance to the What3Words London HQ. And, there is a grid in the middle of the North Yorkshire Moors that is identified as ‘cages.belief.stones’.

    Clearly, this ingenious idea can be very beneficial to a vast number of people in the field sports and game industries.

     

    How else could it help?

     

    The list of industries that the app is currently expanding into is quite impressive. Automation (Mercedes, Jaguar, Ford), Ride Hailing, Navigation, Travel and E-commerce, Logistics, Government and Humanitarian sectors are among the uptakes of the app.

    However, the most interesting sector to roll out the app, and certainly the most applicable to the game industry, is emergency services. As it currently stands, nearly 40 police, fire and rescue departments from the across the UK are using What3Words and of the forces that are using the app – emergency 999 callers can now give their three-word grid location, which can be used to locate their exact location instantly.

    For individuals who do not have the app and need it, call handlers in certain areas have the ability to send out an automated SMS message with a link to the What3Words app – allowing the individual to see their three-word grid location.

     

     

    Well worthwhile

     

    Although as gamekeepers, stalkers and countryside enthusiasts we pride ourselves on knowing our land, it is always wise to remember that other people do not know it like us. So, if simply downloading a free app can potentially save your life, it might well be worth it.

    It is certainly an app that could compliments the rural, remote and off the grid work that we do in the countryside.

    To download the app, or for more information on What3Words – please follow the link.

     

  6. The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust Latest

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    Over the past few years, The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust (GWT) has increasingly spread the word on the various ways it can assist individuals in our industry – and has seen its reputation and awareness of its work become more widespread. And, with the Game Fair season in full swing, the organisation has more ideas up their sleeve to further boost its reputation and its fundraising efforts.

     

    What do The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust do?

     

    The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust provides financial grants for gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies and their families in times of hardship, ill health and retirement.  Small grants are also available for young people making gamekeeping their career. Another key part of what the GWT do is the helpline. This is a key part of the service, providing a confidential listening service with information and support on a wide variety of issues including health, retirement, redundancy, housing and employment issues.

    The GWT offers four main areas of support to gamekeepers, stalkers and gillies and their dependants. These are:

    • Support – There is a listening and visiting service. This includes advice on anxiety, retirement ill health and legal problems, among other things.
    • Financial – For those in ill-health and for younger people wanting to have a career in gamekeeping.
    • Housing – Aiding at times of difficulty for housing.
    • Employment Register – This register allows individuals to see where jobs are and how to apply for them, how to write a good CV and if there are any placements for apprentices.

    For further information on what the GWT do, follow the link here to a previous blog from Keepers Choice.

    The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust logo

    The GWT and Keepers Choice

     

    Over the past few years Keepers Choice have attempted to support this vitally important organisation as much as we possibly can. Where possible we have helped fundraising efforts by directly donating ourselves, and by spreading the word about the GWT so others can also donate.

    However, recently we have gone a step further and had the GWT logo printed on the front of our grower feed bags alongside logos of other major organisations within the industry such as BASC, The NGO, G&WCT and The GFA. We are looking to include the GWT logo on our full range of bags as soon as possible. Underneath the logo, we have also printed the helpline number. We hope by doing this that any gamekeepers using our feed and in need of talking to somebody about life’s struggles is able to simply see the number on the bag and make a call.

    The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust logo

    2020 – Year of the Gamekeeper

     

    Another excellent fundraising effort being set up by the GWT is the ‘2020 Year of the Gamekeeper’ initiative. This is a one-year initiative supported by major shooting and rural organisations including Countryside Alliance, NGO, GWCT, BASC, SGA and several others. The idea is that via the initiative, funds for and awareness of this important charity will be raised.

    The launch of ‘2020 Year of the Gamekeeper’ will take place at this weekends The Game Fair at the Gun Trade Lounge area of Gunmakers’ Pub on Friday 26th July at 3.00pm – with a launch presentation, speeches, canapes and drinks.

    If you are lucky enough to be attending The Game Fair this year but won’t be there for the initiatives launch, you can find the GWT at their stand in the Yellow Zone – Stand M1199. Helen and her team will be happy to talk to you about the fantastic work they do and how you might be able to help.

     

    Newbury Racecourse – Auction, Dinner & Dance

     

    Finally, a date for the diary early next year. The GWT are hosting an evening at Newbury Racecourse in order to raise funds for the charity. The evening, on Saturday 22nd February, will cost £50.00 per ticket and this includes a hot buffet, live band, auction and raffle.

    If anybody is wanting to put up raffle prizes or something for the auction, that would be much appreciated.

    Tickets are available on GWT Facebook page, or by emailing enquiries@thegamekeeperswelfaretrust.com or Kevin Rolls on aquatek2006@btinternet.com 

    There is lots of free parking and The Lodge Hotel at Newbury Racecourse has rooms at a discounted rate for the night.

     For any further information on The Gamekeepers Welfare Trust or if you would like to get involved with the helping the charity – Please follow this link.

     

  7. BGA STATEMENT ON STOP THE CULL

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    Following recent events, The British Game Alliance (BGA) have released the following statement to give reassurance to its members…

    BGA Statement On Stop The Cull

    Statement from Tom Adams, Managing Director of the BGA

    In light of a recent web page published featuring BGA Members, the BGA, would like to release the following statement.

    “The BGA have alerted its members to a web page set up by animal rights activists. We are currently working with the police and are in close contact with BASC and Countryside Alliance on this matter. This page was set up using the minimal information available on the BGA website, compiled over a long period of time using google along with satellite mapping to find specific locations. Going forward, we are removing the counties from the public list for further protection. We have and will always have the highest web security to ensure our members details are protected. Should members wish to make their shoot anonymous, please contact the team directly and we will change that with immediate effect. BGA shoots should be proud to be embracing best practice and we believe that this is an attack on the shooting community improving itself and hoping to sabotage this success.”

    We can assure members that there has been no breach of GDPR regs and that the website has not been compromised, this has been confirmed by our web technicians. Many of the details on the badger cull page are incorrect which further confirms this and in many cases members not listed at all due to their anonymity. The majority of our members wish to remain visible on our site, in a stance against what is a bid to undermine the BGA and its members efforts to raise standards within the shooting community.

    The quote below has been lifted directly from the ‘Stop The Cull’ Facebook page to give a clear idea of how the information was gathered.

    “We’ll work up to more of them over time as we do have more databases and listings to work from, this particular one took several volunteers a few weeks to do in their spare time, so a much larger one of a thousand would in theory only take us a couple of months at the same speed. We’ll keep plodding on.”

    If you have any queries or questions on this matter, please email info@britishgamealliance.co.uk and a member of the team will get back to you.

    To view the original statement on the BGA’s website – please click here.

  8. 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.

     

     

  9. 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.

    season

    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.

    season

    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.

  10. 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!

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