Union backs Avian Influenza Prevention Zone extension

Chickens at Crosskeenan Lane Animal Sanctuary
Chickens at Crosskeenan Lane Animal Sanctuary

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has given its backing to an extension of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) for all poultry and captive birds currently in force in Northern Ireland.

Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey confirmed earlier this week that the prevention zone will remain in force in Northern Ireland until the end of April.

While the current AIPZ remains in place until 11.59pm on March 16, the requirements of the zone will be amended after that point meaning that keepers will have the option of letting their birds outside provided they put in place additional biosecurity mitigation measures to minimise the risk of infection from wild birds. These measures in the new zone will apply across all of Northern Ireland.

Commenting on this latest development, UFU poultry chairman Tom Forgrave said: “Given the serious risk posed by avian flu to the poultry industry, the Union fully supports DAERA’s decision to continue with the prevention zone until the end of April. Two cases of avian flu have already been confirmed in wild birds in Northern Ireland, which is why it is so important that bird keepers remain vigilant for signs of disease and continue to maintain strict biosecurity standards.

“The priority for bird keepers will be the safety of their flock, and they will continue to act responsibly in order to protect their birds. I would encourage producers to think carefully about the amended prevention zone restrictions and weigh up the possible risks of allowing birds outside even with additional biosecurity measures,” said the UFU poultry chairman.

While making the announcement, Mr Huey said the decision to put in place a new Avian Influenza Protection Zone from 17 March is based on sound expert and industry advice.

He explained: “The risk of infection from wild birds is unlikely to decrease in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks, particularly as H5N8 has been confirmed in wild birds here. The current housing requirement, which is due to end on 16 March, has allowed keepers time to introduce stricter biosecurity measures. Therefore, it is our intention to lift the mandatory requirement to house after this date, subject to keepers maintaining the highest possible levels of biosecurity.”