The NFU is urging its poultry and egg producing members to be more vigilant and step up their biosecurity in an ongoing attempt to keep the country free of avian flu.


This week the organisation sent information advising producers what they should do to protect flocks from the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease.


“Most farmers have already heightened their biosecurity measures following reports of avian flu in
Romania and Turkey,” said poultry chairman Charles Bourns.

 

“Those that haven’t should do so immediately.


“Poultry enclosures, houses and surrounding areas need to be kept as clean as possible to avoid attracting wild birds.

 

Clothes, vehicles and boots should be disinfected appropriately.”

 

Careful monitoring of poultry to ensure early detection was also essential.


The EU commission has called for reinforced preventative measures which “could include keeping poultry indoors in high-risk areas”.

 

But DEFRA insists that this is not necessary.

 

“Bringing large numbers of free-range birds indoors would create a significant welfare problem that would not be proportionate to the risk involved,” a spokesman said.

 

The British Poultry Council said this could also create problems regarding the free-range status of meat-producing birds.

 

“We are very concerned that, while EU regulations allow egg layers to retain their free-range status if they have to be housed, the rules for meat birds do not,” said chief executive Peter Bradnock.


The Soil Association said it was in talks with DEFRA about whether netting-off the free-range area to stop wild birds mixing with domestic flocks would be sufficient.

 

It believes enforced housing could reduce natural levels of immunity by increasing stress.


It is also advocating vaccination to ring-fence any outbreak of avian flu.

 

But DEFRA said vaccination is not expected to be part of the UK‘s control strategy, pointing to “significant logistical difficulties”.


The developments follow this week’s announcements of a further spread of the disease that is believed to have crossed inside EU borders.

 

As Farmers Weekly went to press on Wednesday, the H5N1 strain had been confirmed in Romania and Turkey, but test results for the Greek outbreak were not released.