Over 500,000 egg-producing hens culled in Monaghan

Over 500,000 egg-producing hens have been culled in Co. Monaghan since the beginning of an outbreak of bird flu (avian influenza) in the county.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has confirmed that impact of the outbreak (which can dramatically reduce a bird’s egg production), combined with the resulting cull and an increase in demand for eggs from retailers (due to Covid-19 restrictions keeping people at home), is causing a notable shortfall in egg supply.

This shortage of eggs is being partly replaced by increased imports from the UK and mainland Europe.

At present, the department has confirmed the presence of bird flu (H6N1 subtype) in 10 flocks in the border county, eight of which are table egg-laying flocks, along with two turkey flocks. The first case was confirmed on March 9 last.

Four further flocks that were being investigated have been confirmed negative for bird flu. The department stresses that this outbreak does not present a health risk to humans. So far, Co. Monaghan is the only county known to be affected.

According to the department, egg-packing centres “have increased efforts to ensure continuity of supply to retailers” to alleviate the drop in supply and the increase in demand.

The department has reiterated that it is working with representatives of the sector and flock owners to discuss a number of measures aimed at controlling the current outbreak.

“Poultry flocks are currently engaged in the adoption of a series of biosecurity measures, aimed at mitigating the risk of transmission of the disease to other flocks,” a spokesperson said.

The sector has acted very promptly in voluntarily culling the affected flocks with a view to minimising the spread of the disease.

The department had earlier this month said that financial assistance was sought from representatives of the Irish poultry sector and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) to offset the cost of depopulating affected flocks and the rendering of culled birds.

The department clarified at the time that: “There is no legal basis for mandatory compensation in respect of this particular subtype of the disease, as it is not a subtype defined under the relevant EU legislation… A business case for financial supports to partially offset the costs of depopulation and rendering is currently being considered by the department.”