Chal­lenge for poul­try keep­ers

Country Smallholding - - Contents - SI­MON McE­WAN, Ed­i­tor

Th­ese are chal­leng­ing times. Most small­hold­ers keep poul­try of some sort, and will thus be di­rectly af­fected by the re­stric­tions im­posed by DE­FRA to try and halt the spread of bird flu. All do­mes­tic poul­try must be kept in­doors, or at least un­der cover. DE­FRA also rec­om­mends a range of other mea­sures to pre­vent do­mes­tic birds com­ing into con­tact with the wild fowl, which carry the dis­ease. The mea­sures will be in place un­til at least Fe­bru­ary 28.

Some small­hold­ers have adapted with­out too much dif­fi­culty, by rig­ging up tem­po­rary cov­ers for their runs, or keep­ing their birds in barns, poly­tun­nels, sheds and garages, by en­sur­ing that feed and drink is kept well away from wild birds, and by im­prov­ing biose­cu­rity.

The sit­u­a­tion is more se­ri­ous for spe­cial­ist poul­try breed­ers who have large num­bers of birds free-rang­ing. It is also dis­as­trous for poul­try clubs which stage win­ter shows, as th­ese have all had to be can­celled.

In a spe­cial five-page re­port in our Poul­try sec­tion, we talk to poul­try keep­ers across a wide spec­trum to find out how they are cop­ing. We also re­pro­duce a DE­FRA fact­sheet on bird flu and the mea­sures they ad­vise poul­try keep­ers to take.

Small­hold­ers would be ad­vised to con­sider the wider im­pli­ca­tions of this. It is the first time DE­FRA has in­tro­duced such bird flu pre­ven­tion mea­sures. Will this be­come a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence? If so, how can poul­try keep­ers adapt in the longer term? Th­ese are ques­tions for us all to re­flect on. It is also im­por­tant to ask why such dis­eases ap­pear to be pos­ing a greater risk to our live­stock than ever be­fore … and what the so­lu­tions might be. In the mean­time, with spring ap­proach­ing, let’s hope the re­stric­tions are lifted soon.

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