Where are the migratory birds?
At this stage our winter migratory birds (swans, geese and ducks) are returning to their homes having overwintered with us. These species are key vectors for the spread of disease through their faeces. Of particular concern over the winter has been Avian Influenza (AI). There were multiple cases across Europe in commercial flocks with three cases in swans and a goose in the mid-Ulster region.
With this risk of disease came the adoption of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) and associated housing order in December. The risk still remains as the last confirmed UK case was on the 6th May in a small backyard flock of chickens in Lancashire. An AIPZ was in place in NI up until the end of May. A risk assessment will determine what will happen now.
As part of the requirements of the new AIPZ poultry keepers may let their poultry and captive birds out, as long as they follow the additional biosecurity mitigation measures specified in the declaration. Details of the measures are on the DAERA website and relate to birds, range management, wild birds, personnel, visitors, vermin control, vehicles and equipment.
Flock owners are reminded that all flocks, including small backyard flocks must be registered with DAERA. This will ensure you receive the most current information about AI from DAERA.
Hygiene and biosecurity should be at the forefront of your mind as these are the only defences you have to reduce the risk of disease. Limit visitors to the site with only essential ones gaining access. Try to minimise foot traffic between houses and keep house specific boots and overalls in each control room. Replenish foot dips twice weekly; foot dips that are not lidded and outdoors may require more frequent changing. Ensure all vehicles are clean before entry and that all wheels are sprayed. Check egg trolleys and trays are clean before allowing them into the egg store. Maintain a robust rodent control programme and keep outside areas well maintained as tall grass and weeds provide ideal coverage for rodents which carry salmonella.
Coming into the summer, heat stress could become problematic and so management of ventilation is important. Most of the year the focus is on managing cooler air so removing hot air may be less on our minds. Birds have physiological tools to manage a range of temperatures but excess heat can be an issue. The initial response to increasing temperature is for birds to pant slowly. As the temperature increases they will exhibit fast panting and physical tiredness. Beyond this a welfare problem exists where the birds can’t control body temperature. Key to managing heat stress is to create a high airspeed of 1-3 metres per second over the birds. This creates a wind chill effect much the same way as an office fan operates. High air speed is achieved by the negative pressure of fans removing air from the house in a forced ventilation house or the stack effect in natural ventilated houses where warm air rises. With the correct balance between inlet area and recommended air change capacity, a high speed can be achieved. Fans can also be used to blow air into a house. This can produce high air speeds over the birds although there can be restrictions depending on house width and restrictions to the fan. Pressure meters (manometers) are useful for assessing ventilation performance. In a 18 m wide broiler house with a forced ventilation system a pressure of -30 to -40 Pascals should generate the recommended air speeds for cooling in a typical UK summer.
Soil Sampling and Analysis Scheme
AFBI are delivering, on DAERA’s behalf, a Soil Sampling and Analysis Scheme (EU Exceptional Aid) which is now open for registration via the AFBI website (www.afbini.gov.uk). The closing date for online registration is noon on the 19 June 2017.