Time to join the Bristol University beak-trimming trial is running out, with more larger flocks needed to bolster the findings ahead of an impending ban on 1 January 2016.
The “absolute latest” a producer could join is June this year, according to Bristol University’s Claire Weeks, who is working on the trial.
“We need at least five more flocks to join, preferably larger ones,” said Dr Weeks. “The whole basis is to get flocks that represent the industry as a whole.
“The trial needs to finish before 2015 to review the evidence in time, so June would be the absolute latest for a flock to sign up.”
Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, told Poultry World that the potential beak-trimming ban was a big concern, while the lack of larger flocks signed up so far made it less representative of the UK egg industry.
“For a producer it’s an enormous risk if a flock goes wrong,” said Mr Joret. But he added that the BEIC was currently co-ordinating a fund to underwrite any losses to a large flock, ideally 16,000 or above, if they were to sign up.
Noble Foods is also understood to be underwriting at least one of its flocks to participate, and other packers are expected to follow suit.
Dr Weeks said that, throughout the trial, the university would offer its support and guidance. A vet would oversee the flock and a farmer could leave at any point if concerned.
“We’ve got one trial flock that is over 40 weeks and has had really low mortality. It appears to be just 1.5%,” she said.
Case studyPhillip Crawley of Sunrise Eggs said that he was planning to put 9,000 layers down in two sheds – 4,500 untrimmed and 4,500 trimmed as a control.
The flock that isn’t beak trimmed will be reared with range enrichments such as straw bales and pecking blocks, and the beak-trimmed flock will not.
“I feel that I need to see for myself,” said Mr Crawley. “Two flocks side-by-side will give me a far more balanced opinion in order to make a decision as to the pros and cons of trimming.”
Producers that would like to enquire about joining the Bristol trial should contact firstname.lastname@example.org