There are 3 key areas to mention in preparation for this year’s game breeding season
1 British Game Alliance (BGA)
The BGA has been formed as a marketing initiative to help promote the consumption and sales of shot game. As we all know, this is vital to the survival of our industry and for promoting a positive message to the public and consumers. Top end retailers who are interested in stocking and/or serving game, such as Waitrose, M&S, Ministry of Defence, NHS etc, and export markets such as Europe and Asia are demanding to know the traceability, origin and standard to which UK game is produced. Because of this demand and the need to prove traceability for food safety standards, the BGA will be introducing auditable standards to all hatcheries, farms and estates that join their scheme. Whilst this is a great move for the benefit of the game bird sector, the British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) are still in consultation over the details of the standard, including the proclaimed ‘accredited’ Mycoplasma gallisepticum blood test. Please note, the scheme is completely voluntary.
Traceability and auditable standards are only a good thing for the longevity of the game farming and shooting sectors. We need to be able to prove our high standards to keep activists at bay. Keep yourself informed on the progress of the BGA and speak with friends and colleagues who have joined before committing yourself. Remember, no biological test is ever 100% reliable or 100% sensitive. Consult your veterinary surgeon should you have any concerns about mycoplasma testing.
2 Mycoplasma gallisepticum
This horrible disease continues to cause big headaches for game farms and shooting estates. On the whole, mycoplasma (bulgy eye or swollen head) was much better controlled last season even though the weather, and especially the rearing conditions, were atrocious. However, we are still faced with the double-edged sword of antibiotic resistance (especially from mycoplasma) and antibiotic reduction. Avivets has completed sensitivity testing on lots of mycoplasma cultures over the last year and we now have a very good appreciation for which drugs appear to still have good, if not excellent, effects on mycoplasma. Further to this we also have a number of alternative therapies to help reduce our reliance on antibiotics.
The debate over mycoplasma vaccination continues; my stance is that the requirements of each breeder flock and each game farm are different. Until we no longer rely on caught up breeding birds, we will be faced with the uncertainty of mycoplasma status from the birds we wish to breed from. Yes, testing is available, but as mentioned, no test is 100% reliable (including blood serology and PCR) so always take your vets advice when interpreting test results.
3 Alternative wormer
An alternative wormer to Flubenvet (flubendazole), licenced for use in pheasants, was introduced to the veterinary market last year. Gallifen, is a fenbendazole and licenced to treat Heterakis gallinarum (caecal worms) in pheasants over a 5-day treatment period. The wormer is available as a soluble water treatment, which has excellent solubility, or as an in-feed premix. Please be aware of the differences on the licence, Flubenvet carries the licensing for treatment of all worm species, including gapeworm. If in any doubt over which wormers is best for your birds contact your vet.