Since last November, there have been six outbreaks of the highly pathogenic bird flu in Irish flocks, wiping out a total of 200,000 birds.

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture said that all of these flocks have been since depopulated.

There were five poultry farms affected in Co Monaghan, along with a turkey flock in Co Cavan.

The Department said that for GDPR reasons, it is not possible to provide details of the number of birds culled in each flock, but said that the "numbers across the six flocks are of the order of 200,000 birds".

Lifting surveillance zones

In somewhat positive news, the Department announced on Thursday that the surveillance zones around these affected flocks would be lifted.

From Saturday 22 January, there will be no remaining surveillance zones on the island of Ireland.

However, the housing order which was introduced at the back end of last year by the Department under the Animal Health and

Welfare Act 2013 will remain in place.

Speaking with Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) poultry chair Andy Boylan, he said that there is nothing to stop another wave coming.

"This won't be over until migratory birds go home in April. We are still very much in the danger zone," he said.

Boylan added that poultry farmers are on the brink of an income crisis as cost of production increases.

Price increase

"We haven’t seen an increase in the price of eggs in a number of decades. We went to the retailers before Christmas looking for an extra 15c for a chicken and 2c for our eggs.

"We are in a very weak position and are just looking for cost recovery," he said.

Boylan added that if they don’t get the prices they need to deal with the increased pressures of gas, labour, water, bedding and electricity, they will be back to protests at retailers.

"All we are looking for is enough to breakeven, or else there will be a danger of losing chicken or eggs from the market," he concluded.