Feeding at Wood – What are the Options Going Forward?

Feeding at Wood – What are the Options Going Forward?

Most gamekeepers are getting ready to move their birds away from feeding pelleted rations and onto other, cheaper alternatives such as straight wheat.

But how quickly should this change-over take and, with game feed costs having risen this season, can a similar increase be expected for wheat and holding mixes?

Feeding Options Post-Grower

From April onwards, game birds are fed on high protein diets that contain a multitude of vitamins, supplements, amino acids, proteins, oils, fats, fibres and other ingredients that meet the birds’ nutritional requirements. As each week passes, the diets gradually drop in protein and micronutrients to meet the birds’ ever-changing nutritional requirements.

For example, a bird may be dropped from a 20% grower diet to what can be a very variable plain wheat diet (9%-13% protein), resulting in a sizeable nutritional difference that could cause birds to wander more than they already are – often to look for more food. It is important to have plenty of feeders and drinkers with clean, fresh water to prevent wandering further. We also highly recommend moving feeders on a regular basis, this will avoid any issues with stale feed building up around the feeding stations, and cleaning out drinkers if and when necessary.

Most game birds will eat to fulfil their energy requirement only, meaning feed consumption should lessen on a diet with a high energy content. So, by feeding a plain wheat diet the birds are going to be missing out on energy and protein; leading to higher consumption, stalled feathering up and less weight gain.

We would strongly recommend not being too quick to move over to wheat. We appreciate that there is a noticeable cost difference between pelleted feed and wheat but, to have birds performing like finely-tuned athletes from September onwards, they need a good diet. The correct feeding options go a long way to achieving this.

How holding mixes can help?

Holding mixes are extremely attractive to pheasants and partridges alike, hence the name. The holding mixes that we supply contain a range of different raw materials such as; wheat, cut maize, peas, red & white millet, red dari, soya oil, aniseed and various other seeds too.

This creates a mix that is palatable, has good digestibility and is a good low protein options for feeding at release. Whilst the aniseed gives an attractive scent to the birds.

Are we likely to see an increase?

Across the world, wheat crops and harvests have and are being heavily impacted by weather patterns. Torrential rain in parts of Europe have seen severe flooding, resulting in the possibility of crop losses and lower crop quality. Whilst early yield forecasts from Russia are also down.

Traders have warned that these issues could put extra pressure on the UK feed wheat market, and we have seen prices sky-rocket over the last several months. According to AHDB Cereals, the price of wheat has increased by £30/t in the last six months alone.

Domestically, we are a long way behind where we normally find ourselves at this time of the year. According to Farming Today, a report from Monday 16th August stated that in 2020, wheat harvest was 44% complete, only to be 2.5% complete for the same day in 2021. Generally, we are finding customers are keeping birds on pellets a little longer this season – with both the harvest and the poults behind where they normally are.  

The upward trend in price is also set to continue with holding mixes – with there being a noticeable increase in price this year. This is mainly due to imported seed being in shorter supply, therefore more expensive to buy in. Shipping prices have also escalated, adding additional cost to the important raw materials.

One of our better known sales agents, who buys and sells a lot of grain, also had a warning for gamekeepers buying feed wheat directly from farmers or sellers regarding bushel weights –

The accepted bushel weight of feed wheat going into mills is 70-72 Kgs per hectare litre, with 15% moisture, or 85% dry. Anything wetter than this and it is likely to go mouldy, anything drier and it will turn very hard.

There are many samples of feed wheat currently being offered with a bushel weight as low as 66 Kg/Hl. For keepers, it is worth noting that energy levels will fall away markedly on light bushel wheat”

For any customers looking, we have wheat available in both bulk and bags, depending on access and location. We also have cut maize and cut maize with aniseed available. For those still on pellets, we still have a good supply available.

For more information on feeding options please call 01508 470661 or head over to our website www.keeperschoice.co.uk