Bird flu vigilance must be sustained, NFU Scotland says

The bird flu risk remains 'extreme', NFU Scotland warns, following a high number of cases in wild birds
The bird flu risk remains 'extreme', NFU Scotland warns, following a high number of cases in wild birds

NFU Scotland is calling on all smallholders and keepers of backyard flocks to sign up to the poultry register as bird flu continues to cause 'huge concern'.

Scottish flock owners are also being reminded by the union that they must house birds and adhere to biosecurity measures at this time.

This is despite the lifting of all protection and surveillance zones associated with infections recorded earlier this winter in Scotland.

However, there still remains a prevention zone UK-wide, which requires all poultry to be housed and biosecurity measures to be strictly observed.

The bird flu risk remains 'extreme', the union warns, as cases in wild birds are still being seen regularly with high infectivity associated with the strain.

Thousands of wild geese on the Solway coast in Dumfries and Galloway have already died during the avian influenza outbreak.

NFU Scotland says the need for continued vigilance is necessary as traditional migration patterns will soon see geese start to migrate north and east across Scotland to areas like Loch Leven and the East Coast.

Given the level of threat posed by avian influenza to commercial flocks, the union is calling for all non-essential inspections on poultry units to be conducted virtually at this time.

NFU Scotland’s poultry policy manager, Penny Middleton said the situation "continues to cause huge concern and all flock owners in Scotland".

“Unfortunately, it is apparent from anecdotal reports, that non-compliance with the housing order remains commonplace in backyard or garden flocks and that places the whole Scottish poultry industry at an unacceptable risk.

"All bird keepers, whether you only have one or two hens or thousands, must keep birds indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures to limit the spread and eradicate the disease.

“Let’s all do our bit to help those who supply Scotland with our eggs and poultry meat,” Ms Middleton said.

NFU Scotland is also urging all keepers of poultry, including to those backyard flocks and smallholders with under 50 birds, to register with the poultry register.

Registering ensures that the government's vets are able to monitor the spread of infection and identify at risk holdings.