A Q&A with Jane Moyers – Game Farmer and Keepers Choice Customer

A Q&A with Jane Moyers – Game Farmer and Keepers Choice Customer
  • Q. How did you get into the shooting/rearing sector?

My husband, Martin, and I started the business in 1989. When we married, he was already a gamekeeper, and my father was also a shooting man. Martin and I saw a gap in the market for good quality birds from the local area, meaning shoots could purchase locally reared birds and prevent long travelling times.

  • Q. How long have you been game farming?

32 years.

  • Q. What birds do you rear? Do you have a preference? If so, why?

We rear several different breeds of pheasant, mainly because each breed has attributes that may be suitable to the specific requirements of each customer. For example, Bazanty pheasants are well known for their ability to fly well, even when the landscape is less undulating; whereas Chinese X Bazanty pheasants are smaller birds that fly well but hold a little better than a pure bred Bazanty.

Three Day Olds on Keepers Choice

Over the years, Martin gained experience of the different breeds in his role as a gamekeeper – so we are now in a position to offer advice and guidance to each of our customers depending on their specific requirements.

  • Q. Are there advantages of rearing under electric over gas?

Rearing under electric is not always easy, but we feel it provides a more consistent and softer heat – whilst preventing the birds becoming addicted to the fierce, dry heat of gas. We feel that using electric imitates the conditions a wild chick would experience much better and, at the end of the rearing process, results in a hardier, more resilient poult.

  • Q. What delivery area do you cover?

We primarily deliver in Sussex and Surrey and consider these areas as our speciality, with our unique selling point being that the birds are not stressed or degraded in any way by having to travel long distances for deliveries.

  • Q .How many feed suppliers have you used since starting up? What are your reasons for changing?

Over the last 32 years we have used a total of three feed suppliers. The feed market has changed significantly over the past decade, and we have moved suppliers due to reliability and ease of deliveries, price, and availability – and even down to points like having different coloured bags for different rations! It makes all the difference when you are training new staff to have aids like this to help understanding.  

  • Q. What do you look for in a feed supplier?

We look for a good quality product, good quality packaging, a market leading price as well as a reliable delivery service – that can be flexible when it needs to be.

  • Q. Aside from game farming – what do you do? (if you get the time)

Martin’s main hobbies are shooting and fishing, whilst my daughter and I have a dressage horse which my daughter competes. Admittedly, during the summer months there is very little time to indulge in hobbies, but there is time for this over the winter!

  • Q. Are you members of any organisations?

Martin is a member of the NGO, GWCT and The Countryside Alliance.

  • Q .How do you see the future of the shooting sector going?

I think the real strength of the shooting sector in the UK right now is its variety. From huge commercial shoots down to local syndicate affairs, I think diversity is key in maintaining the future of shooting. As much as shooting in many contexts is a business enterprise, grassroots shooting should not be forgotten and should be promoted where it can be.

The sector is coming under increasing scrutiny, particularly in relation to the way it disposes of its dead game, so I think it is essential that the industry does what it can to introduce more game into the UK food chain. The future of shooting needs to be promoted by an up and coming younger generation who need to be aware of how the sector appears to the less educated. It is important to be mindful of how shooting is portrayed over the next few generations to ensure its longevity. 

Week and One Day Olds in a Fantastic Set Up

  • Q. What are the sectors strengths? And what do you see that needs improving?

As mentioned in my previous answer, I think the strength of shooting right now is in its variety. Without this, young people will not have the money to get into the industry as shooting on a purely commercial scale is just too expensive for the younger generation in many cases. Cultivating an interest in shooting from a grassroots perspective is vital in producing the next generation of game farmers, gamekeepers and shoot owners.

We feel that there should also be more focus on quality birds and not just the quantity put down – shooting has previously got a poor reputation for cultivating the idea that numbers are more important that quality. Shooting should always be a challenge and guns should always be striving to improve their ability as a shot, rather than just being ruled by the number of birds shot in a day.

  • Q. Do you have any advice for people looking to get into the game rearing sector?  

It is not an easy industry to break into – that would be my first thought. It takes hard work, dedication and sacrifice to make a success of yourself within this field.

My primary advice is to get as much experience as you can from an early age – whether beating on the weekends when you have time or doing work experience on an estate or rearing field. As the industry is so specialised, most places are willing to offer all the training you will need on the job – so getting out there and being proactive is really important.

I would also urge all aspiring gamekeepers do their time on a rearing field – it is absolutely crucial to understand how poults that may later be released into pens are reared. It will also help to spot if your supplier is cutting corners or providing you with poor quality birds!

Rearing is hard work, but a season or two will give you knowledge that you can use for the rest of your gamekeeping career.

  • Q. What are the biggest concerns with game farming currently – is it weather, power issues, disease or labour?

One of the biggest concerns for us is the education that aspiring gamekeepers/farmers are receiving from the rural colleges across the country. We take on a lot of students on the farm and we feel that the colleges prepare them poorly for the realities of game farming, particularly when it comes to the responsibilities for rearing birds out to wood. It is shocking how few colleges cover in their syllabuses the subject on how game birds are reared and the issues they can encounter at under six weeks old – which can then affect them for the rest of their lives at wood.

Weather is always a concern, but unfortunately there is nothing we can do to change it so we have to meet the challenges it provides as and when they come.

Disease inevitably is a concern for all game farmers or indeed those who rear anything commercially. However, we have always found that having a knowledgeable and enthusiastic vet on board whose advice and guidance is listened and adhered to is one of the primary management factors in overcoming any disease challenge.

  • Q. Clearly, and over many years, you have a very good name for producing a poult that is healthy, fit, well feathered and robust – what do you think you have consistently done to achieve this reputation?

Careful management of the birds at every stage of their development is key to producing a good quality poult. We have a tried and tested system of rearing, but we are always flexible and open to new ideas as and when they present themselves.

No two batches of pheasants rear identically, and each will have different challenges depending on external factors, there is often some luck involved too! We are also great believers in not keeping the birds any longer than necessary on the rearing field – we aim for every batch to be delivered at 6-6.5 weeks old so they can get out to wood and continue their development in a more natural environment.

A lot of hard work is involved but much of what we do is quite simple – if the birds are fed good food, kept clean and given the right amount of heat source, then more often than not the poult will be healthy and fit at the end of its time with us.

For any enquiries regarding poults or anything else, Jane can be contacted at woodhouse-farm@tiscali.co.uk