Leading poultry vet Alastair Johnston believes vets are well placed to address the training needs of the sector, because they have the knowledge at various levels from company director to the stockman on the farm.

So back in April, the Minster Vet Practice acquired two training businesses – Progressive Poultry Training and Skill Solutions – to form MVP Training. Both businesses were established in 1988 by Patricia Egerton, a poultry producer from Hereford. “She wanted to sell and we thought this was an ideal template to base our business on,” says Mr Johnston.

Progressive Poultry Training was a countrywide training provider aimed at training producers to nationally recognised standards. Skill Solutions (formally Lantra Skill Solutions) previously delivered NVQs to the poultry sector and will allow Minister Vets the same capability as a future venture.

Producers will benefit first of all as their knowledge levels increase. He believes it will allow them to run their business more efficiently and have a knock-on effect on profitability. “Consumers will also benefit, as hygiene and welfare improve and so will the quality of the overall product.”

There could be a massive benefit to bird heath if producers are able to recognise when a flock is sick or starting to show signs of ill health, especially when considering notifiable diseases, he says. Early recognition and being able to notify the vet as soon as possible is a step forward. But it is also essential for smallholders to receive training, as their birds are often more exposed. They are just as important as the larger, commercial producers, he adds.

“Nationwide there is a lack of organised training in certain areas and we think it’s important to develop a formal training programme focusing on producers,” says Mr Johnston.

“There is not enough information on assurance schemes for producers to meet the standards required. So that is why we created the modules and, if we get them approved by the assurance schemes, hopefully the training will enable them to achieve the standards that are required.

“We want producers to be trained to a level that allows them to reach assurance schemes status,” he adds.

Funding for the training is available from the European Union under the Regional Development Plan for England. One of the subjects that it will concentrate on is animal health and welfare.

“We have obtained funding for the animal health and welfare courses into all poultry sectors such as broilers, turkeys, ducks and egg layers in the Yorkshire, Humberside and North Lincolnshire areas. This will allow us to provide training to these producers at a much reduced cost – good value for producers undergoing difficult times in this economic climate. We hope to obtain funding for other areas of the country in the future.

“The courses are going to start this summer and will run for three years until March 2011,” says Mr Johnston. They will take place at venues across the region, which will allow more producers to attend. Practical on-farm courses will also take place.”

“Prices of courses will vary, but with funding available they could cost less than £50 for an all-day module,” he says.

Bird health will improve if producers are trained to recognise early signs of disease in their flocks, says leading vet Alastair Johnston.

* Contact MVP Training by email (alastair.johnston@mvptraining.co.uk) or phone (01347 823 793).