Graham White, headkeeper at Holylee estate and ArdMoor’s shooting expert, gives us an insight into what he has been up to since our last visit and the process behind looking after game birds.
What’s been happening in preparation for the pheasants?
Feeding and watering the birds takes up most of my days and nights, at the moment I am working fifteen hour days. The pheasants require about seven to nine tonnes of food a week as well as water. However, we will often hold on for another week, simply because we don’t want to fill the pheasant feeders too quickly. If we do and the birds aren’t busy at the feeders, then the food will just turn to mush. It is all about the timing, as there is roughly fifteen pens scattered around and if I was to just put the food out, we risk losing around three tonnes of food.
There are two or three different types of feeder, one with a spring mechanism and the other with a tray that the food continually falls into. We use the feed spreader off the back of the quad bike to give the birds more food outside the pens and it gives the birds something to work on and encourages them to roam out of the safety of the pens. The newest birds to arrive go to closest pens because of the steep slopes and the difficulty in carrying the feed to the top of the higher ground. The birds need to be checked two to three times a day when they arrive to help them settle in and know where home is.
In terms of the land, in this area of the country, there is a lot of stone and so the ground is not as fertile in comparison to other areas. Therfore, some game crops have been a disaster and some have been all right. The crops started off growing well with at least 20 acres of ground covered but then afterwards they just started growing in bits and pieces. We try and mix the game crops with canary grass but it doesn’t help that the estate is on steep ground. Saying that, it’s actually been good that the ground has been dry because this helps the birds to settle more. The hardest thing i’ve found has been trying to get the birds to settle.
When the partidges arrive, they will go into different pens.