It was a confident start to the year for the broiler sector, with weekly chick placings hitting their second-highest figure on record, according to the latest figures from Defra.

The figures suggest that the ever-expanding UK broiler sector is hitting its stride again after the initial setback from coronavirus in 2020, after setting a new annual total of 1.19 billion in 2021.

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January’s total of 121 million day-olds was up by 8 million on the same month last year, and more than 11m up on January 2020, amounting to growth of 7.2% and 10.4%, respectively.

Recorded broiler production in January also hit high levels.

Total UK output, expressed as carcass weight, reached 166,000 tonnes. This was 12,000t more than a year earlier and 9,000t more than January 2020 (before Covid became an issue).

However, as January is traditionally a slower month for broiler production, this was well short of the all-time monthly figure of 177,000t set last July.

Farm placements of day-old turkeys in January were the same as in the a year earlier, at 1.18m for the month, and just 30,000 higher than in January 2020.

January is also typically the lowest month of the year for weekly poult placings, and has barely altered in the last 15 years.

Output data for the Christmas period shows it was a good season for the seasonal turkey industry.

Total production during the three months October-December came to 56,400 tonnes (carcase weight) – an increase of 24% on the year before, and 13% on the last quarter of 2019.