OCTOBER AND November are two of the busiest months in the Poultry World calendar with three major seminars and conferences and of course the Scottish Poultry Club dinner in October followed by the Egg and Poultry Industry Conference, Eurotier and the British Free Range Conference this month.

The first of these was Aviagen‘s European Broiler Seminar held in Edinburgh. The seminar brought together customers from around 20 countries and provided a great deal of useful information and statistics.

Perhaps one of the most important messages was that from Marian Dawkins who had conducted a major commercial trial looking at the influence of stocking density on broiler welfare.

Her findings that environment had more effect than stocking density should be taken into account when the EU publishes its new standards for broiler production.

One point which she made was that relative humidity (RH) was important throughout the growing period, particularly in weeks 3-5 yet few of the 10 companies involved took RH measurements.

Highlight of the evenings entertainment was the clashing of swords between the editors of the two RBI poultry journals myself and Wiebe van de Sluis of World Poultry ( see picture).

No sooner had I returned from Scotland than it was off to the Republic of Ireland for the Irish Poultry and Egg Conference in Athlone.

Theme of the conference was ‘New Challenges, New Opportunities‘ attended by almost 200 producers and trade representatives.

I met up with our Irish correspondent Anne Marie Foley whose report on the event is in this issue. Rushing back to the UK, I was just in time to attend the dinner following the first day of the NFU Autumn Poultry Meat Conference. Again an excellent programme reported by Richard Allison.

It was good to hear about the marketing achievements of the industry a year on into the launch of British Chicken Marketing although James Hook gave a strong message to delegates that they needed to increase the levy if they were to achieve penetration similar to that achieved by the egg industry.

It is amazing that the egg industry can raise considerably more funds when one looks at the relative size of the two sectors.

The final event of the month is the Scottish Poultry Club dinner which I am about to set off to at the time of writing.

Egg pasteurisation
While over in the Republic of Ireland I took the opportunity to visit Erne Eggs near Enniskillen. Run by Charles Crawford they have just invested some £2.5m in a state of the art egg pasteurisation plant designed and manufactured by Ovobel of Belgium.

The triple tube pasteurisation plant is capable of producing products with up to 28 days shelf life and has a capacity of three tonnes an hour.

Egg stamping
There have been many problems with egg stamping and the issue was again highlighted in an email from 93-year-old Mr P Kerry. He asked for information regarding a unit which could be fitted to hens which automatically stamped eggs as they were laid.

Well true to form, I knew where to go for the information – Dennis Surgenor. Dennis has an old leaflet from the Hensign Company of Manchester who marketed an egg-marking appliance around the time of the Second World War.

The leaflet came to light when Dennis and I were discussing egg stamping some years ago. One quick call and the leaflet was scanned and sent down to me.

The appliance was introduced to supersede trap nesting enabling poultry keepers to record every egg laid by each individual bird.

Cost of the unit was three shillings but only half a crown when you purchased three dozen. The information has now been passed onto Mr Perry who can now prove to his friends in his residential home in Suffolk that the appliance actually existed.

More on Dennis who has responded to my critic in last month’s Diary regarding devolution (see letters). He makes some valid points although I still stand by my opinion that within the UK there should be standard interpretation of EU Regulations despite the fact that Dennis had one call which referred to me as a racist!

British Egg Week
Following the launch of British Egg Week by Edwina Currie the industry gained massive media attention for the Lion Code. Congratulations to all involved at BEIC and BEIS for getting the positive message across and of course for Edwina endorsing what the egg industry has achieved.

Winter ventilation
It is now that time of year when broiler growers should be taking a close look at their ventilation systems in readiness for the onset of winter.

As an aid, I would refer broiler growers to the article in January 2004 Poultry World page 7 by Michael Longley of Aviagen who stressed the need to maintain minimum ventilation to ensure good air quality throughout the growing period.

International Egg Commission
Last month’s IEC conference in Sydney attracted a record 330 delegates. However, despite industry leaders from many countries the conference appeared to shy away from at least one key issue facing the future of global trade in eggs and egg products. I refer of course to the position of welfare in world trade negotiations.

Despite the many positive papers on the value of eggs in the diet, the real issue of protecting those markets where welfare was a key driving force appeared to be of little concern.

What amazes me is that many of the potential major exporters of eggs are from what one would deem poorer nations where the average diet of the population was somewhat lacking in protein.

A stark warning for EU agriculture which, if it allows itself to be beaten on the welfare front will see not only livestock farmers disappearing but with no trade for such commodities as cereals and the many industries it supports. 

My concerns were well put at the Poultry and Egg Conference in Athlone by Andrew Jorêt of Deans Foods.

He stressed the need for low cost production systems; welfare he said was pushing up costs and based on current knowledge by 2012 the EU would not be able to compete on the world market for egg powder.

He told delegates welfare was a non-trade issue, worldwide trade in eggs was with eggs produced from conventional cages and reminded them that as far as WTO went, our negotiator was the EU.

Organic eggs
Ben Bradshaw‘s decision to allow organic producers whose buildings were in place before 24 August 1999 to continue with existing stocking densities until 2010 brought a strong response from the Soil Association, who unreservedly condemned the decision.

The Soil Association represents a minority of organic egg production and when the new EU standards are fully implemented in 2010 producers certified under Soil Association rules will continue to be at an economic disadvantage.

Perhaps they should consider the decision by Sainsbury’s who dropped Soil Association organic eggs pointing out that consumers believe organic is organic and are not prepared to pay the premium for Soil Association egg production standards.

Supermarkets are perhaps best placed to determine what customers want with regard to quality and price. As I have suggested on many occasions when we accept EU standards they must become the industry norm be it in the intensive or extensive sector.

It is not beneficial for sector organisations to set their own rules and regulations since this only serves to confuse the consumer even more.