Tempered optimism for Christmas turkeys this year

Tempered optimism for Christmas turkeys this year

A two-fold note of optimism for seasonal turkey production is provided by Paul Kelly in his spring newsletter from Farmgate Hatcheries, major supplier of poults for Christmas production.

The first is the increasing prospect of a vaccine against avian influenza being available with the next 12 months.

“Currently there is a vaccine available but it is not licensed for use – but is going through trials at the moment,” he said. “I do believe we will have a vaccine in the short to medium term, probably circa 12 months from now. I understand the French will be vaccinating high-risk areas of the country in the autumn of this year.

“The acceptance by the chief veterinary officer that a vaccination programme is needed will secure and protect the long-term future of our industry. UK Christmas poultry production does, I believe, have a bright future.”

Paul Kelly, managing director of FarmGate Hatcheries, also points to the Animal and Plant Health Agency trying to pull together a plan that will give seasonal Christmas poultry growers the confidence to produce for Christmas this year.

He said the NFU is drawing up protocols that should make cleaning and disinfecting of infected premises a far less daunting task and provide practical solutions to dealing with muck out and wash down.

“These proposals should bring into line the huge variations in clean and disinfect wash down

requirements by different case officers throughout the country.

“The current APHA clean and disinfect wash down guidelines are complicated to say the least. Deep cleaning a building to a high standard is not rocket science and something we should all be doing anyway.”

Mr Kelly said that last Christmas their sales were down by around 10 percent to 2019 pre-covid levels as a result of more families eating out, pressure on incomes and the influence of avian influenza – adding up to the ‘perfect storm’.

They are looking at this 2019 level of sales for this coming Christmas, with the bird flu situation still high risk, a potential recession, uncertain feed and energy costs and no sliver bullet for the tight labour situation without the government allowing free movement again for EU nationals – ‘a very long shot to say the least’.

FarmGate Hatcheries is offering the widest range of nine turkey breeds with bronze, black or white feathered poults available from May to September.

The increase of seven per cent in last year’s poult prices did not take into account the massive rise in feed, energy and labour costs after the start of the Ukraine war. While wheat prices have been reducing, feed is still a lot more expensive than a year ago pre Ukraine invasion and energy and labour costs have rocketed.

This has led to an average 17 percent increase for 2023, equating to an overall 12 percent increase over the past two years. Mr Kelly added: “It would be great to see deflation in 2024.”

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