Broiler chick placings in the UK fell for the first time this year during July, as labour shortages in the industry have continued to worsen.
According to the latest data from Defra, the number of day-olds placed on farms was down by an average of more than 300,000 a week in July compared with the same month last year.
By contrast, it follows a half-year throughout which chick placings expanded strongly.
Overall, chick numbers rose by 23.6m, or 4%, during the January-June period compared with the same time last year.
The output of chicken also dropped sharply in July to 32,700 tonnes a week, after reaching a peak for the year of 36,000t/week in June.
However, it was still at its highest level for the past two years.
Meanwhile, there is evidence that turkey producers are adopting a cautious approach to prospects for this Christmas.
July usually is one of the peak months for placings for Christmas, but this year, average weekly poult placings in July dropped below 400,000 birds a week for the first time in 10 years.
Just as in the broiler sector, it was the first time in 2021 that day-old numbers had shown a significant fall on last year.
Poult placings in July were down by 39,000/week compared with July last year, or by 9%; whereas in the six months to June, poult placings had been up by 410,000 on 2020, an increase of 6.6%.
Output in July fell by 470 tonnes a week compared with the previous May and June, and more significantly was down by 770 t/ wk on July last year.