The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said it was extending the Zone until 16 March. Chief veterinary officer Robert Huey said that, while there have been no cases of H5N8 in Northern Ireland, farmers should not be complacent given the ongoing disease situation elsewhere.
Cases were identified earlier this week in a wild swan in County Tipperary in the Republic of Ireland – the third case in wild birds in recent weeks. “The AIPZ is in place as a precautionary measure to help reduce the risk of infection from wild birds. Keeper who are concerned about the health or welfare of their flocks should seek veterinary advice immediately,” said Mr Huey.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union said it would discuss the extension with the Department, National Farmers’ Union and British Egg Industry Council. Tom Forgrave, UFU poultry chairman, said: “At this stage, we recognise that the length of this extension will cause some concern among our free range members and we are discussing this matter… to fully gauge the impact the Prevention Zone will have on the free-range industry if it is extended beyond 16 March.”
At present, the AIPZ in England, Scotland and Wales runs until 28 February. DAERA stressed in its announcement that under the Prevention Zone birds and eggs are still considered free range provided they meet all other requirements. It said declaring a Prevention Zone meant birds could still be housed for up to 12 weeks and still maintain their free range status.
Mr Forgrave said the UFU was supportive of DAERA’s announcement: “DAERA has consulted with the UFU on the next steps for the Prevention Zone and given the proximity of the recent outbreaks in GB and the Republic of Ireland, an extension to the Prevention Zone appears to be prudent to ensure the protection of our industry.
“The biggest factor contributing to the decision on whether or not to lift the Prevention Zone will be the absence of the disease in Northern Ireland and every poultry keeper has an important role to play in achieving this goal.”
• Defra reported 2 new cases of AI in wild birds last week. The 2 cases were in a Canada Goose in Dorset and a buzzard in Somerset.