Poultry farmers and keepers are being urged to take steps to reduce the risk of avian flu entering their flocks this winter.
Chief veterinary officers from across the UK have issued a plea to poultry keepers to take action now to reduce the risk of disease.
They said although the UK is currently free from avian flu, there were 26 outbreaks of the disease last year confirmed in kept poultry and captive birds, as well as in more than 300 wild birds.
“Avian flu is a continued threat to all poultry keepers, and as winter approaches we need to be ready for the increased risk of disease that migrating birds pose to our flocks,” said the UK’s four chief veterinary officers in a joint statement.
“We encourage keepers across the UK to implement strong biosecurity practices now, including regular shed maintenance checks, cleaning and disinfecting footwear and signing up for our email and text alerts.
“Making these tasks a regular fixture of your disease control plans now will make a significant difference in the fight against avian flu this winter and for years to come.”
Advice published by the vets also includes drawing up contingency plans for storing bedding and dealing with pests, keeping chickens and turkeys completely separate from ducks and geese, and placing birds’ feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds.
Poultry farmers and keepers are also asked to have contingency and business continuity plans in place – including for housing birds – in the event of avian flu, and to ensure their production records are up-to-date and easily accessible.
More details about bird flu and the Great Britain Poultry Register – all bird keepers with 50 or more birds are legally required to register with this – is online at www.gov.scot/publications/avian-influenza-bird-flu/