The real cost of the British Bird Flu outbreak

This has not been a great year for the British farmer.

The repeated (though thankfully limited) outbreaks of the Foot and Mouth virus, the Blue Tongue virus and of course the highly pathogenic Bird flu H5N1 virus.

As the Chinese say, these have been interesting times for the Brits and the new Prime Minister is rapidly getting to be known as “Bad Luck Brown”!

The current Bird Flu virus seems to be restricted to a relatively small area with “only” five farms proving to have the dreaded virus in the poultry flocks.

Nearly 29,000 birds had been culled on five farms, all run by Redgrave Poultry and managed by the same five staff, in the official response to the outbreak.

But the real toll is much higher. One hatchery alone voluntarily gassed 190,000 chicks because it did not want to move them outside the restricted area, according to NFU poultry board chairman Charles Bourns.

This hatchery was probably not alone in taking very drastic action, while there have also been problems in getting eggs to hatcheries from farms and in getting birds to slaughter due to the restrictions in place, Mr Bourns added.

Mr Bourns said it was ‘encouraging’ there had only been two confirmed cases and he was ‘optimistic’ the disease would be contained.

He said there appeared to have been ‘no impact at all’ on poultry sales since news of the outbreak broke, a sign, he believed, that consumers were getting the message the disease did not pose a health risk.

“But there is a huge hidden cost to avian flu outbreaks as a result of the restrictions, which are very necessary, but create all sorts of problems for those caught up in them,” he said.

He predicted the various avian flu outbreaks in the UK in recent years had cost the industry around £100m.

About 40 per cent of the country’s fresh birds come from East Anglia and an estimated 25 million birds are caught up in the restrictions.

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Movement restrictions on birds, litter, eggs and by-products apply in 3km Protection Zones around the two outbreaks.

A 10km Surveillance Zone and a wider Restricted Zone covering Suffolk and most of Norfolk. Bird keepers in those zones are also required to house or otherwise isolate their birds from wild birds.

http://www.farmersguardian.com/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=14633

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