Bird Flu and Russia

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We are living in some very uncertain times. Around 5 years ago there was an outbreak of Avian influenza or Bird Flu in our area and due to this we had to jump through a lot of DEFRA hoops in order to get our poults in. We get over that problem and then we have Covid to deal with and following that a second year of covid and a disease problem, that took so long to diagnose, that it had wiped out a lot of stock before we could treat it correctly.

This year we had settled into the idea that we had covered all bases when out of the blue, Avian Influenza (bird flu) hits France and Putin invades Ukraine. How this can affect a shoot in the middle of Suffolk to any great extent is, on the face of it, questionable.

However, we are in a modern world and the idea that the modern gamekeeper is removed from the modern world and is caught up in the 1800s is so far from the truth.

I understood that a large amount of stock came from France for the UK game industry, but the sheer percentage did come as a shock.

According to my contacts in France 80% of French partridge and 50% of pheasants released in the UK are of French origin, and France, at present, can’t import. What about our home-grown stock? Well, the long and short of it is that the UK game farms, as a whole industry, are also relying on France. While there are British producers with laying flocks, the industry is reliant on the French. 

Then we have the next problem, Russia.

Grain from the Ukraine and Russia are going to be affected by the war, this also has a knock-on effect for feed with feed prices going up by £80 per ton. And then we have the gas supply problem to add to this, with most game being reared under LPG gas. This is all without any inclusion of fuel, wages and general inflation.

At present our early season shooting looks very unlikely and how the rest of the season will pan out, I am not sure. Until France can give definite details about imports and numbers and DEFRA give clearance to the French companies, we will not know for certain. DEFRA will also be watching the position in the UK, at present the shoot is literally on the edge of two exclusion zones due to bird flu, in fact one field of the shoot is within one of the zones.

As a friend of mine said the other day, “the UK game industry is on its knees”. This is no exaggeration.

The only option is to evolve the shoot for this year and for the years to come. New ideas and different approach are essential. Whatever happens, prices will rise for guns.

With this in mind, while we work towards an unknown year, we plan for next.

Up until 7 years ago we hatched all our own eggs for the shoot. We could set 12000 eggs per week, and although it was hard work, I enjoyed it.

When we moved from Bunwell to Glemham it was decided that, because of the size of the shoot and the work that needed to be done, we would buy in Day olds or poults. But this year has turned that idea on its head, both for the future of the shoot and my sanity, I will never be totally reliant on others again. With this in mind we have had a very long day last week collecting incubators and transporting them and we will be setting them up over the next fortnight. Like this, if we can get hold of eggs this year, we will be in a position to buy them and hatch our stock, but in the event that we can’t, at least next year we will be self-contained, even if only for our Pheasants.

My goal for this year is to be set up completely for next and to keep Robert, Hannah and Ruby employed somehow. We have to have everything ready and prepared on the off chance that some game is available.

With this in mind we have set up a simulated game shooting trailer. A post on this is on our Facebook page and will soon be on the website. It is designed to use anywhere, so it, together with my staff can run a day at Glemham and it can be transported to any other area, perhaps even your land, where you can shoot at biodegradable clays that will disappear completely after a few weeks.

So then, we need teams of guns for simulated days at Glemham and bookings for our rig on other shoots. If you think you can support us in anyway, please contact Hannah by phone, email or through Facebook. Our aim is to protect the shoot for this season and to lay the solid foundations for next year and beyond.

This is a very strange world at the moment but we will work through it, I’m sure.

So, in conclusion, if you can support us in anyway, please do not hesitate to contact us regarding teams of guns and single guns for simulated game at Glemham and the possibility of us coming to you with our rig. It will all help to put the foundations in place for the future. Hannah has all the details and possible dates, so please contact her for any information.


Mark Howard