By Debbie James

Game bird rearing is providing a good secondary income for farmers looking to maximise the value of farmland.

Pheasants and partridge can be produced on a small acreage and, as it is seasonal, rearing can offer a good balance to other farming activities.

But to rear game birds successfully and profitably while maintaining the highest possible standards needs careful planning.

The Evans family diversified into hatching and rearing pheasants and partridge over 30 years ago.

Gwyn and Ann Evans founded Bettws Hall Game Farm in Powys and now run the business with their children, Amy and William.

For the first ten years, they reared the birds on site with their own team but they now outsource the rearing to local farmers.

The process starts with an initial meeting with a potential rearer to check out the site’s suitability for rearing.

“Once that is established we assign a site manager to the rearer who will be their main point of contact throughout the rearing season and allocate them a batch of chicks between 20,000 and 40,000 per site,’’ says Amy.

The rearer provides the land and labour for the rearing period while Bettws Farm pays for the equipment, feed and gas.

“On a weekly basis throughout the season, our hatchery would deliver approximately 800,000 chicks a week to customers and rearers from our modern, state of the art hatchery,’’ says William.

The hatchery is regularly inspected Defra and the business is accredited by the British Game Alliance, which also involves annual audits.

“We do not simply comply with the environmental standards and regulations, but our aim is to exceed them,’’ says Amy.

The same is true of the rearers, she adds.

“We have found that where there is good management, there is minimal disease – an eye for detail is a must.’’

The contract rearing scheme is bonus-related – higher rearing percentages mean more revenue for the rearer.

“The quality of our poults has increased significantly since bringing in the bonus scheme, as the attention to detail is key to producing a quality bird, and ultimately achieving a better rearing percentage,’’ says William.

The Evanses admit that Covid-19 has impacted on the industry in 2020 but say this is true of many industries.

They are now gearing up for a busy season in 2021 and are hoping to recruit more rearers, says Amy.