Sunday 9 October 2022

Avian flu in Norfolk and Suffolk

Yesterday we were notified that an avian flu housing order has now been announced as of this Wednesday. It was not unexpected. At the moment it applies just to Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex. I suspect a national lockdown for all poultry and captive birds will follow in due course. 

East Anglia has been particularly badly affected by on-going incidents of avian flu through the Summer, especially around Attleborough, where there is a concentration of commercial poultry units, and in an area a little north of Bury St Edmunds. In both locations there have been multiple cases in the last couple of weeks.

There appears to be mounting concern within Defra, as well as the poultry industry, that we are now having year round cases of avian flu rather than being confined to the migratory Winter months. It has now become endemic among our native birds which seems to account for the persistence of the disease. I gather large numbers of swans have recently died along the River Stour in Sudbury. This makes it rather problematic in respect of long term control and management and any other potential knock on consequences.

I note that some experts point to the problem of disease 'spillover' from highly concentrated poultry production units, many of which house tens of thousands of birds.

Here, we anticipated a poultry lockdown this Winter and so during the Summer I have been making preparations to improve our lockdown arrangements. This has involved roofing over a substantial area of a fenced run in place of netting. The surrounding 6 foot chain linked fence has been overlaid with wire mesh (25mm is the maximum gauge allowed under the regulations). The main benefit of a solid roof is that it keeps the area dry and ensures food and water is under cover. So, although they have a decent amount of space, the chickens will not be able to free-range. I have also carried out the improvements so as to be able to keep different types of poultry (in our case hens, ducks and turkeys) separate, which is also a regulatory requirement.

The housing order is also accompanied by a number of bio-security requirements and record keeping. These are legal requirements and because of the much heightened level of concern about avian flu, I suspect that there will be more energy given over to inspections compared to previous years. 

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