There goes another season
27 February 2012
With the arrival of February and finally some winter weather, Matthew Watson, Savills York, looks back on the 2011/2012 shooting season, whilst at the same time keeping his sights set on August and planning for the season ahead. So how has this season faired?
The North York Moors, Northern Pennines and the Angus Glens have all seen records tumble this season. There are various schools of thought on the reasons behind this. I believe a combination of more intensive keepering alongside effective parasite control - through both medicated grit and direct dosing - are the main reasons for such a successful season. However, the weather should not be underestimated; having had two consecutive hard winters and relatively good springs, the red grouse has flourished.
Many moors continued to shoot right through to November and some even into December, although wild weather and poor visibility did hinder many of the later days. The so-called ‘bargain’ late season days did not really materialise as was anticipated, demonstrating that a high demand for grouse shooting remains, even in this current economic climate.
So what about future prospects? The vast majority of moors have left large stocks of grouse reportedly in good health, with the current cold snap being welcomed by all concerned to control parasites. The burning season got off to a good start in October in some areas, despite the heather still being green. Habitat is becoming ever more important as moors look to carry higher stocks of grouse, which is now possible due to medical advances in controlling the strongyle worm. Enhancing habitat requires a multi-faceted approach: from managing agricultural occupiers, having the correct equipment and labour to utilising the various stewardship schemes where possible to assist in this.
Mention of coccidiosis, the parasitic disease of the intestinal tract, in grouse last summer did raise some concerns as there is currently little knowledge on how this can be controlled in red grouse. Some reports of mycoplasmosis, better know as bulgy eye, have been heard and some estates are removing the medicated grit as a controlled experiment to see if this is the course.
Pheasant and Partridge
The low-ground shooting has presented mixed news this season. Good rearing conditions, shooting pheasants in shirt sleeves and little hard weather have combined generally for a good season, if not a signature year. Costs continue to be a concern to all in this sector from large commercial shoots to smaller syndicates. There are numerous stories of estate shoots being closed or let out as costs and income no longer tally and subsidising shooting is becoming more difficult for many to justify.
Many estates are letting out their shooting, but finding suitable tenants is not easy. A balance must be found between rental return, impact on other tenants and occupiers of the estate and the length of term granted.
Shoot running costs are unlikely to fall in the near future. Wheat is currently in excess of £160 per tonne, up from £100 per tonne two years ago against a high of £200 per tonne in spring 2011, so volatility appears to be here to stay in the global grain market. Staff costs need taking care of as good keepers make a shoot, so require care and investment. Labour, vermin control and investment are all factors to take into consideration when choosing whether to rear in-house, buy day-olds or poults.
Spring is a key time for shoots to make important decisions and set objectives on short, medium and long term horizons. Much of the anxiety can be removed by selling days early and getting deposits paid upfront to aid cash-flow. Forward deals on feed and fuel can be done to aid budgeting as well. Savills is a specialist in rural business management is able to assist in employee management, occupier liaison, shoot management and budgetary control.
Syndicates ought to consider costs involved, variety of sport and longevity of the group. Can better sport be provided as part of roving syndicate? There are numerous commercial shoots ready and waiting for you and we can assist you in your search.
Those looking to become more involved in a shooting property ought to consider both purchasing and leasing in the current environment. There are few sporting properties marketed publically for either sale or let, but Savills are well placed to assist people in their search for purchase and lease opportunities in the sporting sector as well as on-going and future management with their national network of rural professionals.
Savills Berkeley Square
+44 (0) 1904 617 824