UFU ‘deep concern’ over bird flu spread in NI: Here’s what you must do

A government image showing a blue, discoloured  crest on an infected bird, next to a normal crested bird on rightA government image showing a blue, discoloured  crest on an infected bird, next to a normal crested bird on right
A government image showing a blue, discoloured crest on an infected bird, next to a normal crested bird on right
The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it “cannot stress enough how important it is” for poultry farmers to take anti-bird flu measures, amid a cull of more than 100,000 birds.

The Department of Agriculture (DAERA) confirmed that the bulk of the cull centres on a strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI, subtype H5N8) which had been found in a poultry flock in Clough, Co Down.

Approximately 80,000 birds were earmarked for culling there, on top of 31,000 birds at another suspected site in Lisburn, which is now being investigated.

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To date, there have been eight positive cases of the HPAI strain confirmed in wild birds in Northern Ireland, across five different locations.

Chief veterinary officer Dr Robery Huey has the Clough case is the first confirmed HPAI incursion in a poultry flock in Northern Ireland.

He said the outbreak “has the potential to have a devastating effect on the industry”.

Chicken giant Moy Park said “all facilities are continuing operations” and that “the company and its supply chain partners continue to follow the strictest biosecurity measures and adhere to all government advice”.

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UFU deputy president William Irvine said the organisation is “deeply concerned” about the virus.

“Our thoughts are with the farm family affected by this AI case [in Clough],” he said.

Setting out what owners need to do now, he said:

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

“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.

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

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

Sean McKeever of the UNITE union, which represents about 3,000 poultry workers (almost entirely in Moy Park) told the News Letter the animals will be burned, and the place where they were housed kept empty for up to six weeks.

“It can spread; there could be more as the days and weeks go in,” he said.

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“But there are normally outbreaks over the year anyway. It’s not unusual there’s the odd farm will identify an outbreak.”

He said what could prove more serious is an outbreak of Covid-19 among the roughly 50-strong staff at a mill in Randalstown which produces the bulk of chickenfeed for the Province, saying that “if it goes down, those birds can’t be fed”.


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