Poultry farmers fear the worst following confirmation of bird flu in a commercial turkey flock in Co Monaghan.

It is understood that some 30,000 birds are to be culled on the farm in order to prevent the virus from spreading.

Andy Boylan, IFA poultry chair, told the Irish Farmers Journal that the poultry industry is in the same situation with avian flu (bird flu) as the human population is with COVID-19, following the outbreak.

“This could not have come at a worse time, Turkey farmers really only have one market and this could have serious implication on their Christmas trade," he said.

“If we could just get another couple of weeks before any more outbreaks we’d be safe."

Containment

A protection zone of at least a 3km radius from the infected holding and a surveillance zone of at least 10km radius has been put in place by the Department of Agriculture in an effort to reduce the spread.

It is understood that there is one other flock inside the 3km zone and several others in the 10km zone, all located in the north Monaghan region.

Boylan said that these flocks must be tested by Department of Agriculture vets for the virus before going for processing.

“Birds still have to be sold and go to the processing plant because if not, houses will get full and then you will have welfare issues,” he said.

Backyard flocks

Boylan stressed that backyard flocks are a serious threat to the commercial poultry industry as they are outdoors mixing with wild birds who may be carrying the disease.

“People don’t realise they need to be registered with the Department of Agriculture.

“Even if they only have two or three birds, they must have a flock number, the same as a beef farmer has a herd number.

“People treat these birds as pets, but they have no idea the risk to the commercial business,” he said.

Boylan urged everyone with backyard flocks to confine them to a smaller area with netting or lock them into a shed so these wild birds carrying the disease don’t mix with them.

Threat to commercial sector

Boylan said that turkeys are extremely susceptible to this “very contagious disease” as well as laying hens and this outbreak is a serious threat to both sectors.

“We are a white breast meat country and export a lot of our brown meat, trade is really going to be under pressure if this gets any worse,” he concluded.