The broiler sector’s rollercoaster ride in 2023 has taken its latest plunge in the current placings figures from Defra.

Chick numbers in July saw their biggest fall this year, down by 4.1 million compared with the same month last year. This is a year-on-year drop of 3.7 per cent.

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So far, the unpredictable trend since January has started with a drop of 3.2m in the first quarter; then moving up by 2.7m in April; down by 1.4m in May; up by 2.4m in June; and then down again in July (all compared with a year earlier).

The net result, however, is that since January broiler chicks are down by 3.6m overall compared with the same period of last year, to 703m. This represents a more modest decline of 0.5%.

Over the past 12 months, the picture has been a little stronger, with total chick numbers up by 5m to 1174m for the full year since August, marking a rise of 0.4%.

No clear trend

With no clear trend emerging after years of expansion, the practical conclusion is that the sector is holding its own – for now – against the challenging backdrop of high production costs and the cost of living crunch among consumers.

The turkey sector is performing similarly, with poult numbers stabilising since March, after a period of slipping backwards, before moving upwards again, leaving the total for the year to date only slightly down on 2022.

In fact, in June and July combined, day-olds were up by 150,000 on the same period last year, an upturn of 3.8%.

This is a positive sign for the Christmas trade, with the two peak months for placings (August and September) still to come.

Poult placings rose by 90,000 in July, marking the most significant monthly increase for two years.