28 February 2015 | Online since 2003



25 April 2014|News,Poultry

Producer group discuss beak trimming amidst new revelations of injurious pecking outbreak in trials


Severe injurious pecking has broken out on another unit involved in the University of Bristol's current beak trimming trials.

Scientists involved in the trials have already suffered one setback with an outbreak of cannibalism in a 16,000-bird trial flock in East Anglia, although Christine Nicol, the professor in charge of the trials, said at the time that there had been no outbreaks in any other flocks. But the Ranger has now learned that a trial flock in Yorkshire has reported serious pecking problems. The mortality rate of the flock has hit 15 per cent.

We asked a member of the Bristol team about the new outbreak during a question and answer session organised by the Yorkshire Egg Producer Discussion Group. Dr Sarah Lambton was speaking to the group about beak trimming work in general at the University of Bristol but she refused to discuss the Yorkshire trial site. Sources have told the Ranger that the trial flock had to undergo emergency beak trimming after injurious pecking pushed the mortality rate amongst the birds up to 15 per cent. The figure is less than the 20 per cent mortality rate in the flock in East Anglia, but still serious enough to raise questions about managing untrimmed birds in a commercial unit.

Egg industry leaders have been calling on politicians to abandon plans for a complete ban on the use of beak trimming, which is currently due to come into force in 2016. The ban was originally due to begin in 2011 but was put off on the advice of the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) because of the council's concerns about feather pecking and cannibalism. However, the Government is planning a review in 2015, and the intention is that the ban will come into force the following year.

The British Free Range Egg Producers' Association (BFREPA), the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) and the National Farmers' Union (NFU) have all argued that it is not yet possible to abandon beak trimming without the risk of serious injury to layer flocks from pecking and cannibalism. Members of the British Veterinary Poultry Association have also said the proposed ban in 2016 should be abandoned.

The University of Bristol was commissioned by the Government to run trials to establish ways of managing commercial birds without the use of beak trimming, but the outbreak of cannibalism in a free range trial flock in East Anglia dented such hopes, and the latest news from Yorkshire will provide more evidence to support the view of those in the industry who say it is still too early to think about banning beak trimming.

The Yorkshire unit where the pecking has been reported is a 32,000-bird multi-tier unit divided down the middle with 16,000 birds beak trimmed and 16,000 with their beaks intact. All the birds are being managed in exactly the same way but the pecking has broken out amongst the birds whose beaks have not been trimmed. The Ranger was told that the injurious pecking amongst the birds had resulted in infection - pushing mortality levels above 10 per cent. A vet was called in to beak tip the surviving birds.

During the Yorkshire Egg Producer Discussion Group meeting, Dr Lambton was asked a series of questions about the current state of the beak trimming trials. One producer said, "We know that in the trials you have had some quite severe issues. Have you been able to put that down to anything specific?"

The doctor was very reticent in her response. "I am tied in what I can say," she said. "We can't really say much about what the causal factors might be there, if we ever can, until the end and I suspect I will be in big trouble if I say anything."

Another producer asked her what she would be telling the politicians when the review of a possible beak trimming ban was held in 2015. "I won't tell them anything. My boss; I don't know what she's going to tell them. We haven't finished the study yet."

During her presentation to the discussion group, Dr Lambton said that injurious pecking was a severe problem for free range egg producers. During a study she had conducted she had found that 65 per cent of farmers she spoke to had experienced injurious pecking in their own flocks. She said the estimated cost of injurious pecking to the free range egg industry was £12 million from deaths alone.

The doctor said that studies conducted at Bristol University had shown that adopting certain management techniques could reduce the problem. Researchers had identified 46 'management strategies' that could help on farm and these had been incorporated into the Featherwel guide that the university had produced to help producers minimise injurious pecking. She said the more that these 'management strategies' were adopted the lower were the levels of injurious pecking experienced on production units.

One producer at the meeting said, "Nearly all the points you have made at the presentation I would associate with good stockmanship and early intervention strategies when things are going wrong. If we are trying to cure injurious pecking, does it still happen when the stockmanship is right?"

She said, "That's an almost impossible question to answer. I have seen flocks where there is no injurious pecking." However, she said, "In my own study most of the flocks I looked at were small flocks." She said that some flocks did not suffer from injurious pecking. Whether that was because the producer had adopted all the management strategies suggested by Bristol University, she did not know. "I just don't know the answer to that."


Download



Comments


25-04-2014 10:51 AM | Posted by: Heath Brooks
Simple answer, meat and bone meal in the feed. The pecking problem increased with the removal of this ingredient.
The birds became much more flighty and agitated when this was removed. If they do not have the pecking problem on the continent are they using M & B meal in their feed.

To post comment without approval login or register

Display name

Please enter your name

Email (optional)
Comment

Please enter your comment

Post Comment

Your comment submitted successfully.Please wait for admin approval.

Some error on your process.Please try one more time.



Jobs


19 February 2015
Regulatory Affairs Advisor - Renewables
Our client is a leading developer of Offshore Wind Farms. Monitor and engage with DECC, Ofgem, National Grid and other releva...

11 February 2015
Quality Manager
In order to apply for this role, you must have previous experience of working as a Quality Manager, a dairy background is pre...

24 February 2015
Trainee Assistant Poultry Farm Manager
TRAINEE ASSISTANT FARM MANAGER. Interested parties should in the first instance contact the Farm manager, Dick Mc....

24 February 2015
Part-time Door Canvasser
We just need help to introduce our on line Home Delivery Farm Shop. No selling involved....

24 February 2015
Apprentice Bricklayer
Business Administration, Accountancy, Agriculture, Construction, Customer Services, Dental Nursing, Electrical, Engineering, ...




Top stories you may have missed
2 February 2015 | Arable
Is EU membership damaging UK farming?

Is EU membership damaging UK farming?

Membership of the EU is damaging the British farming industry, according to...


29 January 2015 | Machinery and Equipment
Drones 'rapidly changing' agriculture

Drones 'rapidly changing' agriculture

BASIS has launched an accreditation for pilots of Unmanned Aerial Systems (...


23 January 2015 | Arable
UK wheat yields have potential to double

UK wheat yields have potential to double

UK wheat yields have theoretical potential to more than double over the nex...


23 January 2015 | Machinery and Equipment
Crowds flock to LAMMA 2015

Crowds flock to LAMMA 2015

Britain’s farmers flocked to Peterborough for the first day of LAMMA’15 to ...


22 January 2015 | Cattle
Don't blame supermarkets for milk crisis...

Don't blame supermarkets for milk crisis...

The crisis in the dairy industry is not the fault of supermarkets, accordin...


16 January 2015 | CLA
Families affected by HS2 face 'major wor...

Families affected by HS2 face 'major wor...

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer visited three rural businesses in Cheshi...


16 January 2015 | Machinery and Equipment
John Deere unveil new 6R tractor range

John Deere unveil new 6R tractor range

Spearheading the John Deere range of mid-size tractors from Mannheim, the n...


14 January 2015 | Animal Health
Monthly TB checks more effective than ba...

Monthly TB checks more effective than ba...

Regular testing for bovine TB could significantly reduce the number of infe...


12 January 2015 | News
Government regulations hampering UK agri...

Government regulations hampering UK agri...

Single-issue policy-making threatens to hamper, not help, the progress of U...


8 January 2015 | Cattle
2015: The year ahead for the beef market

2015: The year ahead for the beef market

2014 has been a “rocky old year” for the beef industry but better prices ar...