UFU urges vigilance after northern bird flu outbreak

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said that it is “deeply concerned” following confirmation on January 6 that a bird flu (avian influenza) outbreak had occurred on a poultry farm in Clough, Co. Antrim.

William Irvine, the union’s president, said: “Our thoughts are with the farm family affected by this AI 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 stressed: “It is vital that in response to this outbreak, all poultry and bird keepers across Northern Ireland review and heighten their biosecurity where necessary to protect their farm business and the entire sector from further infection.

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 should be worn while visiting birds; farms should be kept clean and tidy; hard surfaces should be regularly disinfected; and rats and mice should be controlled,” Irvine highlighted.

He added: “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.”

Irvine said that the registration of all birds within Northern Ireland is “key to controlling AI”.

He also stressed that the same vigilance should be observed by “backyard” bird keepers.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for backyard keepers as well as poultry farmers to ensure their flock is registered with DAERA [Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs]. Backyard keepers are those who have birds, regardless of how many, residing on their premises for personal use,” he pointed out.

“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 possible,” said Irvine.