North East poultry keepers urged to follow Bird Flu biosecurity measures

Avian Flu biosecurity measures Credit: PA

By Kris Jepson

The new measures were introduced by Defra at the start of March and will be in place until the end of April.

It follows a 12 week period that saw farmers and poultry keepers having to house their chickens and hens, disinfect vehicles and equipment and clean footwear to prevent the spread of Avian flu H5N8 from wild birds.

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Jonathan Goodfellow has 12,000 hens at Lynup Hill Farm near Matfen in Northumberland. He said it is essential to adhere to the biosecurity measures after a recent outbreak of the H5N8 disease in Haltwhistle, which resulted in the deaths of 35 chickens.

With the bio-security the producers have kept in the UK, it’s helped us really keep a lid on things, whereas when you see what a hold it’s had across the rest of Europe it could have been a big disaster. On stormy days you do get an awful lot of coastal birds as they’re one of the main vectors of the virus. They do come this far in land. With the case being a Haltwhistle again 25 miles in the other direction we thought it was prudent, under instruction from our vet, to keep them in for longer until the weather improves and the risk hopefully decreases.

Jonathan Goodfellow, Lynup Hill Farm

Some suppliers and retailers have been affected by the measures in that they have lost temporarily their “free range” egg label. For others in Durham City Farmers’ Market the outbreak has affected business.

Jane Gray of Broom House Farm, who owns 200 hens, said keeping them indoors had affected produce.

When we got to February and they were still in, we noticed that our egg production went down, because they didn’t have access to the outside, so they were bored and sick of being inside and so they stopped laying.

Jane Gray, Broom House Farm

Although this strain of bird flu is particularly virulent, Defra says it cannot harm humans through the food they eat.

Hens & Chickens housed to prevent spread of Bird Flu Credit: PA

But the National Farmers Union say it is important preventative measures are taken.

Poultry keepers are still required to house birds where possible and take the additional biosecurity measures, such as separation of feeding areas, such as ensuring the ranging zones are clean, to ensure that the welfare and the biosecurity of the birds is maintained.

James Mills, National Farmers' Union