Farmers on the ground hear cutting-edge poultry sector research

A photo of Gordon Hickman from Defra speaking to the audience at the NFU Poultry Research Seminar 2023 at NFU headquarters.

This year marked the 5th annual Poultry Research Seminar hosted by the NFU Poultry Team, bringing people from across the supply chain together to share ideas and bridge knowledge gaps. The main topics for this year's seminar were AI (Avian Influenza) and Poultry Business Resilience and Sustainability – read on to hear more about what was discussed at the event.

Avian Influenza

Gordon Hickman, Head of Exotic Disease Control at Defra, kicked the seminar off by giving an update on AI vaccination.

Availability, efficiency, legislation, research gaps, minimum requirements and the cost of a potential vaccine are at the forefront of discussions between the AI taskforce and vaccine manufacturers.

Dr Ashley Banyard, the Head of the Influenza and Newcastle Disease workgroup at the APHA followed up after Defra's update. Dr Banyard talked through the different research going on at the APHA, particularly looking at the transmissibility of AI within various bird species.

Grace O’Gorman from the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock then gave an overview of its new report: ‘Living with the Risk of Bird Flu’. This report lays out the key components in assessing and mitigating AI risk.

Grace called for greater communications channels, not only between farmers, but also between scientists, policy makers and stakeholders.

To close the AI section of the seminar, Michael Clark, President of the BVPA (British Veterinary Poultry Association) explained how disease outbreaks affect a vet’s workload in many ways: from changing animal health dynamics to new biosecurity constraints and the limited face-to-face interactions vets now have with farmers.

Poultry business resilience and sustainability

The second part to the seminar focused on business resilience and sustainability within the Poultry industry.

This was opened by NFU Poultry adviser Tom Glen, who gave an overview of the NFU Poultry Board’s newly launched Poultry Sector Resilience Plan.

The plan lays out the sector’s priorities and asks of government, industry and R&D to improve business resilience and climate-friendly farming.

Karl Williams, Operations Director at FAI Farms, then gave an overview of GHGs (Greenhouse gas emissions) within global agriculture, with feed and the potential associated land use change being a large area of focus for the poultry industry.

The thought provoking closing question of his presentation was: ‘What are the drivers for change?’

Tom Willings, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Eggbase followed up with a presentation on how farm data can provide a basis for meaningful conversations and diagnostics.

Yet, Tom was clear in saying that we cannot ignore the financial element of data; we must also determine what a suitable carbon footprint for the industry actually looks like.

Next, Claire Wright, Finance Director at Soanes Poultry Ltd, talked the seminar participants through areas of investment for her broiler business.

Sustainability, implementing a circular economy, staff welfare and training, and trialling initiatives to bolster productivity are all important areas of investment. She explained that not only would these investment areas cut down on emissions, but they would also cut down on costs.

Last but not least, Llŷr Jones, a free-range egg producer from Derwydd Cyf, talked us through his multitude of renewable energy sources on farm. 

With hydro, solar, a ground source heat pump and even an incinerator which heats 14 homes a year, Llŷr certainly showcased the scope renewable energy technologies have for cutting down costs on farm.

Thank you to all those who attended and the speakers for presenting. We now look forward to the 2024 Poultry Research Seminar!

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