Farmers warned over bird flu

Avian influenza.
Avian influenza.

Poultry farmers in the Horncastle area have been urged to remain vigilant amid fears of another major outbreak of bird flu.

Almost 20,000 turkeys were culled at a farm near Frithville, Boston last week.

It followed similar outbreaks at two farms in the Louth area - one in December and the second in January.

Exclusion zones have been put in place around the affected farms in a desperate bid to stop the disease spreading.

Although no outbreaks have been reported at any in the Horncastle, Coningsby or Woodhall Spa area, one retired poultry industry worker believes it is only ‘a matter of time’ before bird fly strikes.

Harold Needham (74), who kept poultry near Woodhall Spa, told the News: “I think everyone is worried and although all the various agencies are doing their best to stop this terrible disease spreading, farmers are largely helpless.

“The loss of birds is one thing but farmers can be left thousands of pounds out of pocket.”

Mr Needham’s comments come as the National Farmers’ Union warns everyone who keeps poultry - whether it is one or two chickens in the back garden or thousands for commercial food production – can do their bit in the fight against bird flu.

NFU spokesman Alison Pratt said: “Everyone should keep their birds inside, whether you have two hens in the backyard or a commercial producer.”

She said this was particularly important as the disease can be passed on by wild birds.

The Government’s chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said: “To reduce the risk of bird flu spreading from bird to bird there is currently a legal requirement for all poultry keepers – even those who just keep a few birds as pets – to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.

“There is also a ban on poultry gatherings.

“Bird flu is also transmitted via the environment, for example in wild bird droppings, and it is vital that keepers practice strict biosecurity.

“This means taking precautions such as putting up netting, keeping food and water inside and disinfecting footwear and equipment after contact with birds.”

With all birds being kept indoors, there are also concerns about the on-going availability of free-range products, including chickens and eggs.

Ms Pratt stressed the NFU is confident the industry can survive the outbreaks but said the financial implications for farmers could be devastating. especially with regard to the clean-up bill.

She described the pressure on farmers as ‘enormous’ - both physically and mentally.”