Speaking to ITV Border News, David Brass, Chief Executive of The Lakes Free Range Egg Company says poultry farmers across Cumbria, will continue with biosecurity safety measures to prevent Avian Flu.
Poultry farmers and egg manufacturers in our region say they will continue with safety measures to limit further outbreaks after the Avian Bird Flu Prevention Zone was lifted. The risk has been lowered but bird keepers are still recommended to keep enhanced measures of protection.
The Lakes Free Range Egg Company, based in Penrith, says the risk for their business is still too high, so it is business as usual. David Brass from Lakes Free Range Egg Company told ITV News Border: “A couple of our supply farmers this year have had avian influenza and everything is dead within 5 days. 5 or 6 days; 100% mortality. “I don’t know a disease on the planet that does that.
“You’re still seeing cases in gannets in Northumberland; actual cases of influenza in commercial flocks in Devon and Cornwall. He added: “So as far as we’re concerned we’re treating it the same. “The risk is still there although to a lesser extent, so we won’t change anything.”
There has been a major outbreak on the Farne Islands on the North East coast and birds have now been found dead on Marsden Bay in South Tyneside. The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was put in place in November when the risk was medium.
However, the risk has reduced enough for mandatory requirements to be removed. Birds have been allowed back outside since May, after being inside since November to keep them safe from bird flu.
Mr Brass said: “They were almost like children who had never been let out before. They kind of look out the door and think, ‘what’s out there?’ And ‘is that really…I’ve never seen this before’. And then they got used to going outside again and fortunately, they’re all roaming quite happily now.”But, in reality, nothing has changed with the latest lifting of restrictions. Keepers are still encouraged to keep up measures like regular cleaning, restricting vehicle movements and preventing visitors from coming on site – large gatherings of birds at markets and fairs are still banned.
Poultry farmers have been wearing overboots and disposable overalls to prevent the spread of Avian flu.
Mr Brass said: “It is pressure washers and things to wash wagons when they are coming on farm and going off farm. You maybe had more business than you do now. Now it is absolutely essential people only – that has always been the recommendation but it is absolutely key now.”
Biosecurity is not just about managing visitors, it is also about keeping wild birds out. This can be done by keeping drains to prevent puddles from forming for wild birds to sit in because wild birds pass the influenza to the domestic birds.
Mr Brass said: “It is making sure that buildings are maintained properly. One of the cases came because there was a little hole in the roof and some of the rainwater washed contaminated material from outside inside. It is just being ultra careful about what you do so that the outside doesn’t come inside. And then you go and let your birds out anyway so it’s a challenge.”
Mr Brass has also had to make other changes to his farms to prevent the spread of the influenza. He said: “The birds that carry avian influenza are things like ducks, geese, seagulls, crows to some extent, which tree cover keeps those birds off your range so it keeps your range relatively clean.”
The extra biosecurity to prevent Avian Flu is costing up to £10,000 a month which could soon be reflected in the price of eggs. The Lakes Free Range Egg Company processes up to 1.5 million eggs a day and says the extra biosecurity is costing up to £10,000 a month, and that’s on top of a massive increase in energy costs and feed caused by the Ukraine war.