Thursday 21 September 2017

Wet summer bodes well for Christmas goose

The summer of ‘goose weather’ augurs well for the most traditional of Christmas poultry, according to John Franklin, chairman of British Goose Producers (BGP).

The wet weather has provided plentiful grass through the summer months benefiting the growth of geese, which do derive nourishment from grazing. “I do believe the geese have enjoyed the rain more than anyone else!” he told the BGP annual farm walk hosted by Johnson & Swarbrick at the aptly named village of Goosnargh, near Preston, Lancashire.

Looking ahead to the festive season, he forecast a modest rise in retail goose prices – probably around two percent – to counter increased in labour and feed costs.

The heavy reliance of the poultry industry on labour from other EU countries was taken up by Shraddha Kaul, public affairs manager of British Poultry Council.

“Migrant labour makes up more than 60 percent of those employed in the poultry meat industry,” she said. “As an organisation, we are lobbying to clarify and protect the rights of these workers who play an important role in the productivity and efficiency of the industry. It will be quite a challenge for the future.”

Better known for their top quality Goosnargh corn-fed duck and chickens, the family business of Johnson & Swarbrick has been rearing Christmas geese for the past 10 years and will have around 1000 on the market this year.

They have recently moved into supplying goose and duck feathers and down for manufacture of duvets and pillows. Visitors saw the plant used for washing and drying the feathers, which are stored in long blue sacks about 4 metres (13 ft) tall.

Energy generation also created considerable interest among the visitors. Around 40 acres of miscanthus, or elephant grass, is grown for fuelling the biomass boiler which provides heats for brooding the goslings, ducklings and chicks. Initially stored in big bales, the miscanthus is now cut with a forage harvester and the chopped straw stored in one long clamp encased in a white polythene ‘sausage’.

View some of the pictures from the event below: