Any farmers keeping 50 or more poultry birds have until 28 February to register their flocks on a new DEFRA database.

The move has been taken to help the government prepare for future disease outbreaks.

Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw said: “Currently no central database of poultry flocks exists.

The aim of the register is to gather essential information about birds on commercial premises across Great Britain so we can build up a better picture of the size, type and proximity of flocks.

“We do not want to create more government red tape.

This should be seen as an essential disease prevention measure.”

Charles Bourns, the NFU’s poultry board chairman, said the register had the union’s backing.

“This register will enhance already existing contingency measures and it has our full support.

“Commercial poultry keepers must register their birds at the earliest possible time to ensure our valuable industry is best placed to deal with any potential disease outbreak.”

The register will gather information for Wales, Scotland and England.

A separate register has been established in Northern Ireland.

fwnews@rbi.co.uk