The UK’s chief vets have called on poultry keepers to ‘get ahead of the game’ to ramp up avian influenza biosecurity measures ahead of autumn migration.
Previous Government advice encouraged keepers to keep enclosures clean and tidy, put fencing around outdoor areas where birds roam to limit access to bonds visited by wild birds, and keep food and water in fully enclosed areas, removing any spilled feed regularly.
Now Defra has reiterated its calls in the wake of the H5N8 strain being found in 13 flocks in the UK and more than 40 wild birds from December 2016 to July 2017, with as many as 65,000 birds affected in one case.
UK chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said: “While it is undoubtedly good news we have not confirmed a case in kept birds in the UK for two months, the disease remains a threat, particularly as we move towards the colder months.
“For this reason, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels and I want to remind keepers of flocks large and small to do everything they can to reduce the risk to their birds.”
The calls came as the industry previously clamped down on backyard flocks for failure to comply with requested biosecurity measures, with Defra suggesting that ‘protecting chickens in a back garden from the disease also protects farmers locally and nationally’.
Industry bodies including the NFU, RSPCA, British Hen Welfare Trust and the Poultry Club of Great Britain have also teamed up with Defra to protect bird welfare after it admitted there was ‘every likelihood’ the disease would return in winter.
“Simple actions you can take now, such as regularly cleaning and disinfecting the area where you keep your birds and signing up for free disease alerts, could really help reduce the risk of your birds becoming infected this winter,” Mr Gibbens added.
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