Game Farm Audits

Following a successful pilot scheme in 2019, this will be rolled out nationally from January 1st 2020

The British Game Alliance (BGA) is delighted to announce its Game Farm Audit scheme has been backed by the Game Farmer’s Association (GFA), the British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) and the UK’s shooting organisations, raising standards in the game industry as a natural progression of the BGA’s established Shoot Standards.

The BGA has worked in conjunction with the Game Farmer’s Association (GFA) and leading game bird veterinary specialists to develop the new audit and Game Farm Standards, which have been written based on the current code that DEFRA produced, specifically relating to game birds used for sporting purposes. 

Following the pilot scheme conducted in summer 2019 and feedback from the relevant organisations, the code recommends good practice from a health and welfare perspective and the BGA have added specific recommendations to update the code to reflect the current issues that the industry faces, including stocking densities and Mycoplasma Testing. The audit investigates all aspects of game farming and is divided into three sections; laying, hatching and rearing. This will demonstrate to retailers and food businesses that BGA assured game is sourced from enterprises that carry out best practice and achieve the highest welfare standards throughout the supply chain.

The new standards have been written by specialist game vets in association with Acoura, DEFRA and the GFA. The annual audits will be operated independently by Acoura, who also audit the BGA member shoots, visiting participating game farms including hatcheries and laying flocks from January 2020. The audit process demonstrates to the public, opponents and the wider sector that the industry is accountable, vigilant and adhering to the code of practice that has been recommended by DEFRA – which until now, has been hard to prove with the absence of an approved audit process in place.

For BGA shoots who rear their own gamebirds with less than 10,000 head of game will not need to sign up for a game farm audit. If a shoot rears over 10,000, they will be considered as a game farm and are encouraged to undertake the audit. It is the aim that BGA audited game farms will make a premium on their stock due to the quality assurance and transparency demonstrated. 

Dominic Boulton, Chairman of GFA, said

“The GFA support this new initiative, and has been involved with the development of the scheme. We encourage all game rearers (whether GFA members or not) to participate in the audit and demonstrate their commitment to all that it stands for. Against the backdrop of mounting political and anti-shooting pressure, this scheme represents a huge opportunity to protect our livelihoods and be proud of our businesses”

John Tasker BVetMed MRCVS, on behalf of the BVPA, explained

“The British Veterinary Poultry Association applauds the publication of the Game Farm Audit Scheme and the associated passports. BVPA members have been involved in their development, and will continue to be involved with their implementation. The game bird farming industry is demonstrating a responsible, collaborative approach to quality production, of which scrupulous auditing is an integral part. The BVPA gives its full backing to this initiative, and we hope that uptake of the scheme is seen widely across the sector. The Scheme should be an example to other species within the UK farming industry.”

Liam Bell, Chairman of the National Game Keeper’s Organisation (NGO) said,

“The NGO supports measures to improve confidence and traceability in game farms. Measures which may ultimately help reduce our antibiotic use further, and help eradicate some of our more common hereditary game bird diseases.”

Tom Adams, MD of the BGA, said 

“Food businesses are increasingly taking full ownership of traceability and provenance in their products, and it is important for the game sector to follow suit. We believe the BGA Game Farm Audit is the next step in demonstrating this and promoting the enterprises that achieve the highest welfare standards throughout the supply chain.”


New Test Developed for Mycoplasma in Gamebirds

The BGA is also pleased to announce through its soon to be launched ‘Health Plan Service’, the availability of the first ever validated blood test for Mycoplasma in Game Birds, exclusively part of the BGA’s game farm audit. 

Mycoplasma Gallisepticum is commonly known as “bulgy eye” or “swollen head” and is becoming a more common disease in the UK game bird population, affecting flying performance. Developed by SciTech Laboratories and the British Game Alliance in conjunction with St David’s Gamebird Services, Mycoplasma Testing can be used to identify disease in new season poults as well as breeding stock collected from shoots at the end of the season. Alan Beynon, BGA Board Director has spent the last year bleeding birds from known positive stock to create validity for blood testing. 

Sci-Tech Laboratories are offering its Mycoplasma testing service to BGA registered Game Farms and shoots exclusively as of January 2020. Having a validated test available in the UK for BGA members is a major step forward in the eradication of this disease as well as reducing the use of antibiotics to treat the symptoms, which will in-turn help the industry to meet government targets to reduce antibiotic usage.

The BGA’s ‘Health Plan Service’ will also cover research and testing for antibiotic usage and pro-biotic alternatives and in time further research into other common disease issues and control measures. This is a hugely exciting and proactive step for the game sector.

Alan Beynon, BGA Board Director and MRCVS Director of St. David’s Gamebird Services, said

“Mycoplasma, in my opinion, represents the biggest threat to the game bird sector as a veterinarian, and cannot be controlled dealing only on a shoot-by-shoot basis. Last year, we assembled all the shoots in Exmoor alongside their suppliers, and started a process of monitoring birds’ infectivity through blood sampling. I believe the British Game Alliance is a good forum to facilitate Mycoplasma monitoring, and to coordinate it nationally, with the aim to reduce the incidence of the disease. This is a very exciting opportunity for the Game Farmers to show full compliance through the recently introduced external audit process, and now to include Mycoplasma monitoring alongside this scheme.”

Linda Radnor from SciTech Laboratories said

“We have been working closely with the BGA and St David’s Game Bird Services to understand and develop what the blood results mean in game birds, allowing us to show whether the breeding birds are positive or negative. We already know that positive breeding stock are likely to transmit to the chicks, and therefore create continuity of the disease. BGA Game Farms and shoots will have access to this test, and we hope that the BGA will be able to coordinate this nationally, to create steps towards eradicating the disease.”