Bird flu doesn’t take a Christmas break warns NI chief vet
I also want to reiterate, once again, that practising constant excellent biosecurity, which now includes having your birds housed, is the single most important action you can take to protect your birds and our industry from future disease incursions.
Whether you have a backyard flock, keep birds as a hobby or have commercial premises, there is now a legal obligation to adhere to the housing order requirements currently in place across Northern Ireland.
The department introduced this requirement on 28 November in order to protect you, your flocks and our wider poultry industry.
This now forms a key part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) which was introduced by the former Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots on 17 October and mandates strict biosecurity measures be carefully adhered to regardless of your flock size, bird type or location across the country.
It is not an easy situation, but neither is having disease confirmed on your holding.
I therefore want to thank all of you for your efforts in stopping an incursion of AI across NI this winter, but it doesn’t mean we can drop our guard.
This year, there has been one confirmed case in a captive bird holding and, since April, there have been 21 confirmed wild bird cases across the country.
Positive cases in wild birds, commercial and backyard flocks, across Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, continue to occur and, in recent months, have been on the rise.
We must try to avoid a repeat of last year, which was NI’s worst ever outbreak of bird flu and resulted in the cull of approximately 80,000 birds.
This is devastating for the owners and has the potential to savage our £450 million poultry industry.
Avian flu is a cunning and determined virus and could wipe out your flock within a matter of days.
It will exploit any gaps in your biosecurity, so it is vital that you check this every day.
No one is safe from an incursion and cases in NI will occur over the coming months unless we all take immediate action now.
In addition to introducing the AIPZ with mandatory housing the Department has also developed a biosecurity - self assessment tool to help bird keepers in the review of their biosecurity arrangements. You can download the self-assessment tool by using the QR code.
During this time, there are also a range of other actions you can take to protect the welfare of your flock. These include:
Ensure feed and bedding is protected from rodents and wild birds Make sure there are no gaps in your housing, that would allow wild birds or rodent access Clean your footwear every time you visit your birds Humanely control rodents Regularly clean and disinfect hard surfaces
These actions should become a regular, repetitive and instinctive part of your bird-owning routines.
A daily task you need to keep on top of, even on Christmas Day.
These are not one-off events, but something you should do every single day, and come as naturally as providing food and water for your birds.
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you that it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to also register their birds. This will enable us to contact you with important disease information, giving you the best opportunity to protect your birds. You can use the online bird registration form which you can access at https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/bird-registration-form.
DAERA also encourages you to sign up to the text alert service simply by texting 'BIRDS OPT IN' to 07860 098672. This will allow you to receive immediate notification of any important disease information, allowing you to protect your flocks at the earliest opportunity.
The most important message I have for you this Christmas is - biosecurity, biosecurity and more biosecurity.
It is vital we work together to protect all our flocks from this terrible disease.