Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds were introduced to all areas of England on Monday 7 November, following a decision by the United Kingdom’s Chief Veterinary Officer. The housing measures legally require all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow stringent biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the disease, regardless of type or size.
The order will extend the mandatory housing measures already in force in the hotspot areas of Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Essex to the whole of England. The Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss is now encouraging all bird keepers across England to use the week to prepare, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their private vet and expand housing where necessary.
In addition to the above, Defra has recently introduced a new package of support for farmers and producers dealing with the impact of bird flu. The Government has altered the existing compensation scheme, allowing compensation to be paid to farmers from the outset of planned culling rather than at the end. This will allow for swifter payments to help stem any cash flow pressures and give earlier certainty about entitlement to compensation.
In consultation with the Food Standards Agency, an easement to marketing rules for poultry products has been introduced in England. This means that farmers who breed turkeys, geese or ducks for their meat will have the option to slaughter their flocks early and to freeze these products, which can then be defrosted and sold to consumers between the period 28 November and 31 December 2022. This option will give farmers certainty over business planning.
Biosecurity guidance and a biosecurity self-assessment checklist have been published by Defra to assist all bird keepers in instigating and maintaining good biosecurity, which together with further updates on the latest avian influenza situation and advice on housing birds can be found on the GOV.UK guidance page for Avian influenza.
Avian influenza poses incredibly difficult challenges for bird keepers and others who are on the frontline of this disease. There are numerous support networks that individuals can contact for help including the Rural Services Helpline. Defra are in partnership with Farming Help to support their work to assist the farming community through challenging times. If this affects you, please either contact them on 03000 111 999 or visit their Farming Help website.