Avian flu: New measures to support poultry farmers

The government has announced new measures to support the poultry industry as the UK battles its worst ever outbreak – with over 200 cases confirmed across the country in the last 12 months.

Planned changes to the avian flu compensation scheme will allow compensation to be paid to farmers from the outset of planned culling – rather than at the end. The government says this will allow it to provide payments more quickly to help stem cash flow pressures, and will give earlier certainty about entitlement to compensation.

After consulting with the Food Standards Agency, the marketing rules in England will also be eased – meaning farmers who breed turkeys, geese or ducks for meat will have the option to slaughter flocks early and freeze the products, which can then be defrosted and sold to consumers between 28th November and 31st December 2022.

The UK produces over 11 million turkeys in the UK each year, with just under two thirds of these consumed over the Christmas period.

Farming minister Mark Spencer said: “Farmers and poultry producers are facing real pressures as a result of this avian flu outbreak, and we know many are concerned about the impact on their flocks

“We hope the practical solutions announced today will help provide greater financial certainty. We very much appreciate the continued cooperation from the sector as we battle this insidious disease and will continue to keep the situation under close review.”

Last week, the chief veterinary officer introduced a national avian influenza prevention zone, which means bird keepers must implement strict biosecurity measures to safeguard their flocks. A regional housing measure also remains in place across Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex, where keepers must house their flocks until further notice.

All bird keepers (whether they are pet birds, a commercial farm or just a few birds in a backyard flock) must remain vigilant and help prevent avian influenza through the following measures:

  • cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control
  • keep records of mortality, movement of poultry and poultry products and any changes in production
  • thoroughly clean and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
  • keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points
  • minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds
  • prevent access by poultry to ponds and watercourses and ensure that birds are kept in fenced or enclosed areas

Public health advice remains that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Do not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that you find and instead report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

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