Poultry keepers who produce free-range eggs have been granted permission to keep their hens indoors for up to 16 weeks and still receive free-range status - if affected by Avian Influenza.
The decision to extend the 12-week derogation was announced by the European Commission after it was considered too short in the face of the ‘prolonged nature’ of bird flu outbreak in 2016.
Kicking off last Saturday (November 25), the move allows eggs from individual flocks on the same farm to be labelled free-range regardless of when the farm came under restrictions.
Farming unions welcomed the move but urged keepers to remain vigilant.
Clare Morgan, NFU Cymru poultry group chairmain said: “The Commission made the announcement before the deadline which means the changes will be in place before the next outbreak of Avian Influenza.
“Although this does not meet the full extent of what NFU Cymru was asking for, it is nevertheless a good win for the sector following strong lobbying by the union.
“I remind all poultry keepers to remain vigilant as we approach an increased risk in the transmission of AI.”
Whilst the disease is not currently present in the UK, it is present in Europe with outbreaks in Italy, Germany and Bulgaria.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) urged keepers to review their biosecurity measures and business continuity plans in light of suspected increased risk levels through the wild bird winter migratory season.
UFU poultry vice-chairman Ronnie Wells added: “Producers should familiarise themselves with DAERA’s guidance on good biosecurity and if you have any suspicion of disease within your flock you should contract your vet or the local DVO immediately.
“Poultry keepers can also sign up to the AI text alert service to receive immediate notifications of a disease outbreak. To subscribe they need to text BIRDS to 67300.”