IFA Deputy Poultry chairperson Brendan Soden. 

Poultry farmers lock flocks indoors as fear of avian flu grows

INFECTIOUS Dead swan in County Cavan confirmed as a case

A local IFA representative admitted farmers are worried as this week the government ordered the compulsory housing of commercial flocks across the Republic due to the rapid advance of avian flu.

The housing order came into effect on Monday after a dead swan was discovered here in County Cavan to have the H5N1 strain. However the first case on the Irish coast was detected in wild birds as early as July. There’s deep concern over the devastating impact this highly infectious disease could have on wild bird populations, particularly since Ireland is such a crucial location on a global scale for migrating birds arriving from freezing northern climes.

Deputy national poultry chairman Brendan Soden said there was no indication how long the requirement would be in place.

“This has been going on across the EU all summer,” the Lavey farmer reports. “The Netherlands never came out of a housing order - and avian flu has been very bad across England and down into France as well all summer. There didn’t seem to be any let up all year. Usually when the hot weather comes it disappears, but this time it didn’t.”

Brendan reports that the virus thrives in cold weather, so there has been much relief amongst stakeholders that this autumn has proven particularly mild. Cases of avian flu arrived in the Republic at roughly the same time last year. There were a few cases in Cavan and Monaghan last year, but effective protocols limited its spread.

Brendan said farmers are afraid of the prospect of their flocks becoming infected.

“We don’t want it because there is a slaughter out policy. That means if you get it, they’re going to clear your site, and then you are going to be empty for some time and you will be out a huge loss.”

In the case of avian flu cases bird units require a deep cleanse, then a series of successive clear tests over a period before farmers can restock.

“It’s the loss of your flock is the biggest thing – the bills are still there, and they have to be paid, but suddenly, everything stops.”

The regulations, entitled Avian Influenza (Precautionary Confinement of Birds) Regulations 2022, require flock keepers to confine all poultry and captive birds in their possession or under their control in a secure building to which wild birds, or other animals do not have access.

Mr Soden anticipates an all Ireland approach being adopted by the authorities if there’s a case detected in commercial farms and notes that all farmers will adhere to the requirements.

“We have been under very strict bio security regulations since September. So everybody is doing the best they can – vehicles are being disinfected on the way in, and footwear and clothing changed when going into houses.

“Mortality is extremely high. Within a week you might have no birds left in the shed anyway, it’s very contagious. They try to slaughter quick to stop the spread, but if you didn’t the birds would still all die anyway.”