Housing measures to prevent bird flu on poultry farms in Northern Ireland are to lift at midnight on Tuesday 13 April.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said that the NI poultry industry is moving in the right direction as poultry producers prepare to release their flock into controlled outdoor areas, putting appropriate biosecurity measures in place.

UFU poultry chair Ronnie Wells said the announcement by Minister Edwin Poots that the end of the housing order will come into effect early next week is positive news and will be well received by UFU members.

“However, whilst some may think this symbolises the end of the risk period, this is not the case. It is important that bird keepers remain vigilant as migratory birds are still present, therefore the risk of avian influenza (AI) remains,” he said.

Cases in Britain

Wells said there have been recent cases reported in the UK within commercial poultry flocks.

“With that in mind, both farmers and backyard flock keepers need to continue to keep the risk of avian flu to the fore of their mind.

I encourage members to ensure that strict biosecurity measures are put in place and maintained

“For those who have housed birds during the last number of months, now is the time to prepare for birds returning back to the range after 13 April 2021. I encourage members to ensure that strict biosecurity measures are put in place and maintained, including the cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and the reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.”

Backyard poultry keepers

The UFU encourages poultry and backyard keepers to remain vigilant especially when visitors are necessary on the premises.

“When the birds are allowed out, all poultry and captive birdkeepers will need to continue taking extra biosecurity precautions.

“It is vital that everyone pays extra attention to cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles. Access should be limited to essential visitors only on sites, and workers need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures.

“All these biosecurity measures are equally as important for backyard keepers as well as poultry farmers,” Wells said.

At the end of March a compulsory housing order for poultry in England, Scotland and Wales was lifted at the end of March. It had been in placed since 13 December 2020 to stop the spread of bird flu. The last confirmed case of bird flu in Birtain was on 12 February in Scotland.