Bird flu took the UK poultry industry by surprise last year, as the disease entered the country much earlier than predicted with cases occurring as early as November as opposed to mid-winter.
The disease has widely affected commercial and backyard poultry production across the EU over the last few months and it is thought this earlier appearance is down to changes in the climate and migration patterns. The UK has seen a high number of cases across the country and with this disease untreatable, it can be costly for the industry.
Bird flu is a damaging disease that can have a negative impact on the financial viability of poultry businesses, as while there is compensation for culled birds, sheds where birds have been exposed to the disease have to go through a very thorough and expensive cleaning and disinfection regime. In addition, housing free range birds because of the restrictions surrounding bird flu can result in reduced egg production affecting the feasibility of production.
Here’s some top tips on preventing bird flu on-farm.
Biosecurity is fundamental in controlling bird flu. The outbreaks in this country to date have mainly been as a result of the disease entering the shed through people, contaminated water or equipment. Here’s some advice on how to implement top quality biosecurity:
- Ensure all areas of the sheds are clean and disinfected regularly between flocks and keep entrances to the sheds clean and disinfected at all times
- Change footwear and clothing between houses and prior to entering bird areas to help avoid cross contamination
- Disinfect all vehicles wheels on entry to the farm and all visitors should disinfect their footwear
- Minimise the number of visitors and vehicles coming onto the site, to help reduce the risk of disease being brought onto the farm
- Maintain sheds to ensure wild birds cannot get into buildings and defecate near the birds or the poultry houses
- Check all guttering, downpipes and drains are correctly functioning to prevent roof or surface water entering buildings
- Install bird scarers around the shed to deter birds from the premises
Being able to closely monitor bird health, welfare and performance will allow producers to identify any potential problems linked to the disease quickly:
- Wireless sensors set up in poultry houses allow producers to collect real-time data, which enables any changes in health or performance to be identified quickly. A sign of bird flu can be reduced feed and water intakes and systems such as the Poultry Sense solution can help flag this.
- If a bird flu outbreak occurs, then that flock must be culled. Therefore, if producers can identify an issue quickly by monitoring for changes in health parameters and prevent it spreading to numerous sheds or sites, this will be a significant benefit for producers. It also means any visitors can be notified so that they don’t take the disease onto other sites.
What if there is an outbreak in your area?
Even an outbreak in your area can have a significant impact on the way producers manage their birds such as:
- Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) – if a HPAI outbreak occurs within a 10km radius of your farm then you will be placed into a surveillance zone, so you must record visitors and can only remove or spread manure and move eggs or poultry meat off site with a license.
- Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) – if a LPAI outbreak occurs within a 1km radius of your farm then you will be placed into a surveillance zone, so you must record all visitors entering the site and all birds and eggs that enter or leave the site.
What if there is an outbreak on your farm?
If you are concerned that you may have bird flu on your site, you must contact the AHPA immediately. The contact details and more information on bird flu can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu.