Poultry farmers' relief as housing rule relaxed

Hens at Lynup Farm, Ingoe.
Hens at Lynup Farm, Ingoe.
19 April 2017 7:11PM

FARMERS and smallholders have welcomed the Government’s announcement that poultry will no longer have to be housed as a defence against bird flu.

All birds in England are now allowed outside, even in those areas previously categorised as “higher risk.”

However the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs stressed that commercial flock owners – or those keeping more than 500 birds – should continue to take extra bio-security measures.

It follows a new assessment of the risk of infection from wild birds.

Free-range eggs have had to carry labels making it clear birds have been kept inside for their welfare but since April 10 those stickers will no longer be needed.

Fears that free range poultry farmers might see the price of their eggs plummet as a result of having to sell them as barn eggs proved unfounded after the larger supermarkets said that since the cost to their suppliers would not change, prices would stay put to support them.

Jonathan Goodfellow, Northumberland’s representative on the NFU’s North-East Poultry Board, said he was grateful to retailers and the general public for the support they had shown farmers over the last few months.

“The consumers have been very understanding and the retailers have been very understanding,” said Jonathan, who runs a free-range poultry farm at Ingoe, near Matfen.

Most of his eggs go to Chippindale Foods, which supplies Morrisons supermarket.

“Everyone realised it’s been a particularly bad year for avian influenza and everyone has done their part to lessen the impact,” Jonathan added.

“There’s always going to be the odd outbreak – it was such a virulent disease this year and the UK actually got off quite lightly (compared to elsewhere in Europe).

“But all the evidence is that the migratory birds have moved to the northern feeding grounds so they’re not flying around now and with longer days and warmer weather, any residual virus will soon get killed off.”

Defra declared a nationwide prevention zone on December 6, legally requiring captive-bird and poultry owners to keep their birds indoors, in a bid to prevent an avian flu outbreak on mainland Europe reaching Britain.

Since then, there have been a number of outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus in poultry and wild birds in the UK.

In Tynedale in February the H5N8 strain was identified in a small flock of chickens on Amos Hill Farm at Slaggyford.

A three-kilometre protection zone and a wider 10-kilometre surveillance zone was immediately thrown up around it.

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