Gamekeepers risk cancelled drives by skimping on good game cover, according to covercrop specialists Bright Seeds

The company this month warned that, rather than poor weather conditions, it is keepers cutting corners with inadequate cultivation, inferior seed, too little fertiliser and poor pest control that are the biggest threat to shoots, which may be jeopardised by high crop recovery costs and lost birds.

Chris Bright, managing director of Bright Seeds, explained: “Using game maize as an example, the costs of ploughing and drilling are pretty constant regardless of how the crop is grown, but thereafter cost-cutting measures can come into play. Where minimal budget is the overriding concern, it is not unusual for some to sidestep subsoiling altogether and attempt to save around £70 per hectare (ha). Planting untested seed can be a further attempt to save around £60 per ha. Other ploys include slashing fertiliser and spray applications to try to save another £60 and £40 per ha.

A skimping approach

He continued: “We estimate up to £283 can be saved by a skimping approach, reducing the standard growing costs from £496 to £266. This is not impressive when faced with a complete replanting or a drive being cancelled. It also puts additional strain on the keeper who is fighting a far greater battle than need be to hold birds.

“Perhaps most ironically, the costs of driven birds means the savings achieved by growing low-budget gamecover can be redeemed by the shooting of only six additional birds per ha of gamecover grown. It poses the question: having gone to the effort of growing a covercrop, why skimp and risk losing the money and effort in failure?”