Shropshire Star

Farm invests £30,000 in 'cages' for grain after coming under siege from starlings

A dairy farm which has been plagued by starlings foraging for maize and other grain has made a £30,000 investment in 'cages' to tackle the problem.

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Bryn Jones

Nantgoch Farm near Oswestry has been troubled by the birds as it looks to feed its 770-cow dairy herd.

But the business hopes that by investing £30,000 in starling-proofing cattle housing, it will see payback in just two months, in feed savings alone.

Before the Jones family embarked on a programme of work last year to protect buildings with welded wire mesh panels it was estimated that around 50,000 to 100,000 starlings were helping themselves to four tonnes of feed daily, at a cost of £15,000 a month.

There were also financial losses from reduced milk production – up to two litres per cow per day due to the lower energy density of the fed ration from predation, with negative effects on fertility as a consequence.

The cage-like canopies to deter starlings

Bryn Jones, who farms with his wife, Bev, and son, Mathew, told farmers attending a recent Farming Connect open event at Nantgoch that the money spent so far on measures to deter starlings had been a very worthwhile investment.

“It is a lot of money to find and we still have another 20 per cent of the buildings to do but it is the only way we can protect the feed and the cows from the infestation,’’ he said.

Protecting feed passages on the outside of buildings had been one of the biggest challenges but it was achieved with cage-like canopies which can be raised off the passage when the feed wagon is depositing the ration and winched back into position when cattle are feeding.

One of the next hurdles is to protect the maize clamp during times when access is not needed.

“It isn’t going to be easy but it is something we are going to have to do,’’ added Mr Jones.

Graphs produced by the farm vet, Rob Edwards of Cain Vets, showed dips in milk production during the months of peak bird infestation, with a potential 4.4 per cent loss in energy corrected milk during those months compared to the period when starlings have migrated.

Mr Edwards also warned of the health risks from starlings as potential vectors of infectious diseases such as Salmonella Typhimurium.