Farming: Vets issue warning to take steps now to tackle avian flu

Poultry keepers are being urged to act now and prepare for the likely return of avian flu in order to reduce the risk of disease in their birds over the winter.

Poultry keepers have been put on alert over the likely return of avian flu
Poultry keepers have been put on alert over the likely return of avian flu

With the arrival of autumn and the return of the many migratory birds which flock to the country for the winter, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officers hope to get poultry keepers on the front foot in the face of the likely return of bird flu over the winter months.

While the UK is currently free from avian flu, last year 26 outbreaks were confirmed in kept poultry and captive birds and in over 300 wild birds: “As winter approaches, the risk of migratory wild birds infecting domestic poultry will rise and therefore it is vital that poultry farmers and bird keepers take action to improve biosecurity standards,” said the chief vets in a joint statement.

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“Avian flu is a continued threat to all poultry keepers, and as winter approaches we need to be ready for the increased risk of disease that migrating birds pose to our flocks.”

Asking keepers to implement strong biosecurity practices now, the vets said this included conducting regular shed maintenance checks, cleaning and disinfecting footwear and signing up for our email and text alerts: “Making these tasks a regular fixture of your disease control plans now will make a significant difference in the fight against avian flu this winter and for years to come.”

All keepers – large or small – were advised to get ahead of the game and implement the following steps to reduce the risk of disease as the migration of wild birds recommenced:

Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly clean and disinfect any hard surfaces.Keep chickens and turkeys completely separate from ducks and geese.Conduct regular maintenance checks on their sheds.Clean moss off the roofs, empty gutters and remove vegetation between sheds where birds are kept.Draw up contingency plans for storing bedding and dealing with pests.Place birds’ feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly.Put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl.Clean and disinfect footwear before and after entering premises where birds are kept.Ensure robust contingency and business continuity plans are developed and reviewed for managing your premises in the event of avian flu – including for housing birds, appropriate arrangements for bedding management, vermin and pest control.Ensure production records – including for farm movements, water intake and egg production – are up-to-date, easily accessible and preferably electronic.Be ready to submit licensing requests when planning to move birds, vehicles or feed, and have plans in place in case of delays.

The Scottish Government said that it continued to monitor for incursions of avian flu and was working to minimise risks with all those who kept poultry and game birds.

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