Bird flu continues to threaten the poultry industry on the island of Ireland. The confirmed outbreak last week among a small turkey flock in Wicklow is the latest confirmation of bird flu on this island.

The advice is clear – flock owners are asked to keep visitors to an absolute minimum and to maintain a visitors’ book that includes contact details and previous sites visited, as well as what sites they are going to next.

Visitors should also wear protective clothing and be given access to foot dip and hand washing facilities.

According to chair of the Ulster Farmers Union poultry committee Ronnie Wells (page 48), bird flu, the biggest risk to the industry, comes from poultry keepers with backyard or hobby flocks.

He maintains that a lot of these people don’t realise that if they had food sitting outside for their hens, a wild bird with avian influenza could fly down and leave its droppings nearby. This can then potentially be spread to other farms and could devastate the industry.

Differentiating products

How to differentiate poultry products is a debate among poultry producers, similar to the dairy and beef sectors at the moment.

On page 50, UCD’s Patrick Wall discusses some of the issues that help marketing and the attributes of eggs and chicken meat that can assist in differentiating the product from other sources of protein.

Similarly, the UFU poultry committee is seeking guarantees from retailers that barn eggs will have a long-term market, free-range products will command a premium and that the lower-tier egg market will not be served by cheap imports (see page 49).

The rising price of poultry feed is going to impact margins on poultry farms over the coming months. While many poultry producers will have forward purchased, producers will still feel the effects at some stage in the future. Research has shown that where the pig or poultry sectors are concerned, we are not competitive on feed prices, so efficiency and minimising waste are essential.

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