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Caithness poultry keepers are being urged to remain vigilant around avian flu

By Jean Gunn

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Birds must be kept indoors and owners must continue to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease. Picture: DGS
Birds must be kept indoors and owners must continue to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease. Picture: DGS

Local smallholders and keepers of backyard flocks are among those being requested to sign up to the Poultry Register to help monitor the spread of avian influenza (AI).

The situation continues to cause huge concern and all flock owners in Scotland – large and small – are reminded that they must house birds and adhere to biosecurity measures at this time.

Although the protection and surveillance zones associated with infections recorded in Scotland earlier this winter have now all been lifted from affected premises, there remains a prevention zone across the whole of the UK which requires all poultry to be housed and biosecurity measures to be strictly observed.

The risks remain extreme, cases in wild birds are still being seen regularly across the country with high infectivity associated with the strain.

Thousands of wild geese on the Solway coast in Dumfries and Galloway have already died during the AI outbreak. The need for continued vigilance across all of Scotland is necessary as traditional migration patterns will soon see geese start to migrate north and east across Scotland to areas like Loch Leven and the East Coast.

Given the unprecedented level of threat posed to commercial flocks, NFU Scotland is calling for all non-essential inspections on poultry units to be conducted virtually at this time. The union will be contacting Scottish Government highlighting the willingness of the industry to cooperate fully with virtual inspections until the risk period is past.

NFUS also urges all keepers of poultry, including backyard flocks and smallholders with under 50 birds, to register with the poultry register https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/poultry-including-game-birds-registration-rules-and-forms to receive up to date warnings and notifications affecting their birds. Registering will aid the government vets to monitor the spread of infection and identify at risk holdings.

NFU Scotland’s poultry policy manager Penny Middleton said: "Unfortunately,it is apparent from anecdotal reports, that non-compliance with the housing order remains commonplace in backyard or garden flocks and that places the whole Scottish poultry industry at an unacceptable risk.

"All bird keepers, whether you only have one or two hens or thousands, must keep birds indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures to limit the spread and eradicate the disease.

"All can play a part in tackling this devastating disease, including the public, should you be out taking a walk this winter. If you find a single dead swan, goose, or duck; a single dead bird of prey, or five or more dead wild birds of any other species including gulls, then you should report them to Defra’s national telephone helpline: 03459 33 55 77 (and select option 7).

"Let’s all do our bit to help those who supply Scotland with our eggs and poultry meat."

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