The idyllic image of British farms belies a harsh reality for UK poultry farmers. A complex web of challenges has tightened its grip, squeezing profit margins and threatening the future of this vital sector. From the skyrocketing cost of imported feed to the ever-present shadow of avian influenza outbreaks, each day presents a fresh hurdle for those working to keep our nation’s poultry supply chain in operation.
Some of the primary headwinds that UK poultry farmers face include the cost of production, the threat of disease, trade and the international market barriers, trends and welfare as well as sustainability.
Soaring productions costs
The cost of poultry feed, largely made up of imported grains, has skyrocketed due to global factors like the Ukraine war and extreme weather events. This significantly squeezes profit margins for farmers. The UK’s energy crisis has pushed up heating and ventilation costs for poultry houses, further straining farm budgets.
Combine these with labour shortages, making for a seemingly ever increasing cost of production. Following Brexit-related immigration restrictions and competition from other sectors offering higher wages, attracting and retaining skilled workers has become increasingly difficult.
The looming threat of poultry diseases
Frequent outbreaks of avian influenza, Salmonella and e.Coli to name a few diseases, force preventive culling of poultry flocks, leading to significant production losses and financial strain, and while vaccination is seen as a potential solution, concerns about its effectiveness and potential trade restrictions on vaccinated birds create uncertainty for farmers.
Trade and market access
Following Brexit, navigating the new trade landscape has been challenging, with increased paperwork, border checks, and tariffs impacting exports and adding to costs. UK poultry farmers also face a low level of competition from cheaper imports, which can put downward pressure on domestic prices, not only from a contractual perspective, but also from consumers.
Consumer trends and welfare concerns
Increasing consumer demand for organic, free-range, and higher welfare poultry products can be difficult and expensive for some farmers to meet – and coupled with these demands can often be a lack of pressure to increase the selling costs to balance that of the production.
Farmers,and those in industry can also face public scrutiny over poultry welfare practices, putting additional pressure on producers to adapt and invest in improvements.
Farmers are under pressure to adopt more sustainable practices, such as reducing antibiotic use and managing manure responsibly. In addition, the effects of a changing climate as a whole have seen an increase in extreme weather events, posing risks to poultry production, with heat waves impacting bird health and heavy rainfall increasing disease risks.
Addressing these challenges is complex and interconnected, and there are no easy solutions. It will require a collaborative effort from farmers, government, industry stakeholders, and consumers to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for the UK poultry sector. However, by raising awareness and working together, we can support UK poultry farmers and ensure a secure and ethical food supply for the future.
How Livetec has been supporting UK poultry farmers for the last decade
Livetec have been the UK industry leaders in on-farm biosecurity for the last decade. We have helped to incorporate biosecurity into farm planning for extensions and developments to structures on your premises. By incorporating biosecurity principles into your planning at the start you ensure the physical aspects of biosecurity are in place to protect your animals.
To find out more contact a Livetec biosecurity advisor here.