Challenge for poultry keepers
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.