Union 'deeply concerned' after NI bird flu cases

Bird keepers have been told to review and heighten their biosecurity
Bird keepers have been told to review and heighten their biosecurity

Poultry keepers in Northern Ireland have been told to 'review and heighten' their biosecurity following new cases of bird flu across the region.

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said it was 'deeply concerned' after confirmation on 6 January from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) of an outbreak on a poultry farm in Clough, Co Antrim.

The union's deputy president William Irvine said the thoughts were now with the family farming businesses affected by this bird flu case.

"A farm is more than just a business, it is a passion and a way of life and the aftermath of this outbreak will have a detrimental impact on the family," he said.

He added it was 'vital' that in response to the outbreak, all keepers checked biosecurity to protect their business and the entire sector from further infection.

All birds should now be housed including backyard flocks, after housing measures came into effect on 23 December 2020.

"All movement in and out of bird enclosures should be minimised, clean footwear before and after visiting birds, keep farms clean and tidy regularly disinfecting hard surfaces, and ensure rats and mice are controlled," Mr Irvine said.

“We urge all bird keepers to remain vigilant and to keep a close eye on flocks for AI symptoms.

"Any suspicion of disease or increased mortality needs to be reported to their vet or local divisional veterinary office immediately.”

The registration of all birds within NI is key to controlling avian influenza, he explained.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for backyard keepers as well as poultry farmers to ensure their flock is registered with DAERA.

"Backyard keepers are those who have birds, regardless of how many, residing on their premises for personal use. This includes hens housed in gardens.

"Registration does not only apply to poultry farmers and the only exception to registration is pet birds that live inside the home.

"All other birds need to be registered and if they are not, this should be done as soon as,” said Mr Irvine.