So how well did the shooting season actually go?

February 2017

Alan Beynon BVM&S MRCVS, St David’s Game Bird Services

It appears that most shoots have had a successful season, with very few call outs for us as vets. The early season was challenging with bright weather and northerly winds causing many birds to have “disappeared.” As always, we started to become concerned and asked ourselves where have they gone and why? Then some weeks later they did start to arrive again in reasonable numbers and in the end, nobody ran out and indeed there were some excesses! So where do the birds all go to?

The two main categories of problems which we were called out to were high worm burdens and swollen head issues.

Worm burdens are a continual source of concern and we visited several shoots with poor bird performance as well as signs of a lack of strength and a refusal to fly over gun lines. Birds appear “floppy” and shoot owners and keepers analysed these flight patterns pointing doubt at rearer, breed and/or feed. Even low burdens can have significant impact on performance and it is useful to keep monitoring birds throughout the season.

On the contrary, good worming initiatives have produced birds of exemplary performance with savings in feed intake as the birds become more efficient converters of wheat for maintenance of body weight due to improved gut health.

Swollen head, Bulgy eye or as vets term it, mycoplasma is an increasing issue and one which I shall spend some time discussing over the next year as we update you on our knowledge. What we do know is that mycoplasma affects the respiratory system of the bird and will affect performance on a shoot day. The characteristic coughing or “snicking” can be heard early in the morning or late at night in a pen.

The important point at present is that these birds will be carriers for the disease and should not be used for laying stock. The organism that causes the disease passes through the egg to next year’s chicks from either parent, causing problems for another year.

Bird flu continues to be an issue with several wild birds picked up over the country. The Government has issued a Housing Order to lock up domesticated poultry while the risk is high, but we envisage this risk to fall at the end of February. In the meantime, the same problem plagues the French in the south on their duck sites producing Foie Gras. Yet, this is still far from the regions in the north where they keep their laying hens and cocks, so it looks all set to go as per normal for day old birds. You can sign up to receive our disease updates through the St David’s Game Bird website.

That just leaves us wondering where the price will sit as currency rates changed following our decision to leave Europe!