Ravenstonedale Kirkby Stephen Cumbria


A Nicheworks interview with the proprietors of Lune Valley Pheasantries

Paul Richardson, Mike Ladhams and Alan Benson

'We are providers of quality game stock: pheasant, partridge and duck', say Paul, Mike and Alan proudly, standing in front of the pens they are in the process of constructing, ready for the imminent arrival of thousands of pheasant chicks. 'No order is too small or too large'.

Pens
Pens
Pens
Pens

All stock is blood tested for mycoplasma and grass reared on new ground every year, which helps to avoid disease. The main strains reared include French ring neck, Kansas ring neck, Kansas crosses and black necks. They also rear red leg partridge, and mallard duck.

The day-old chicks are transferred on arrival into brooder huts where they receive food, water and heat (from a LPG gas heating system). From there once a week or so old they are released into sun parlours and eventually into grass runs and then the pens, which are covered in black netting to avoid birds escaping or predators entering. Much of the equipment used is bought locally or constructed by the team themselves on site.

The youngest birds are under constant 24-hour care. The temperature of the brooder huts is monitored and the feeders and drinkers regulated. Once the birds are old enough they are allowed to roam beyond the sun parlours - at night they are shut up into the sun parlours and brooder huts for easier temperature control.

Birds can begin to arrive from early May, so all the construction work has to be completed by then. From mid-June the 6-7 week old birds will start to be caught and sent away in batches. From the beginning of July batches are required on a weekly basis, up until mid-August. The trio devise a rota for the daily routines and accept voluntary help from anyone with a genuine interest in their activities.

Summer Friday evenings often begin with the unglamorous task of catching six young pheasants at a time, tagging them and carefully placing them in large plastic crates ready to be collected. The task is made easier with the help of several keen volunteers, who later congregate for a much needed drink in the local pub. The talk revolves around the mysterious in and outs of game bird rearing, drinker systems, and leads on to animated stories in anticipation of the shooting season.

Customers include local and national shoots. All three members of the team are active shooting men - with the local shoot and on occasion acting as beaters for national shoots. They have always had a keen interest in game birds and enjoy the rearing side of producing high quality birds. Over the next few years they would like to see themselves working in the business full time with the possibility of providing local employment and seasonal positions.

All three agree that they are happy that their particular method of rearing the birds is one of the best they have encountered: they try to reduce the stocking levels, which may be more costly to them, but has obvious benefits for the birds. 'A happy bird is a healthy high-flying bird', they chorus.