Avian influenza: guidance if you have birds on your dairy or livestock farm

15 November 2021

Dairy Livestock
An image of free range hens sitting on a fence. Copyright: NFU/Richard Faulks

Our poultry experts have put together this guidance for anyone who may have hens or other birds at home or on farm on what the nationwide avian influenza restrictions mean for them.

Avian influenza H5N1 has been confirmed in captive birds, poultry and wild birds in England, Wales and Scotland. When cases are confirmed, the government will impose disease control zones around the infected premises.

Poultry keepers (even if they just have one hen in the garden) should check whether they are within an avian influenza disease control zone by using the APHA’s interactive map as restrictions will apply.

On 3 November 2021 the Chief Veterinary Officers of England, Scotland and Wales implemented a nationwide Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ). This includes mandatory biosecurity requirements for all poultry keepers, whether that’s one bird at home or a commercial flock of 100,000.

On 29 November a mandatory housing order came into force across the UK; it is now a mandatory requirement that all bird-keepers keep their birds indoors to limit the spread of avian influenza, this is in addition to the existing AIPZ.

What if I am in a disease control zone?

Additional restrictions apply to all poultry keepers within disease control zones. Licences may be required for movements on and off sites that have poultry or captive birds on them. If any part of a holding is within a disease control zone then the whole holding is considered to be within that disease control zone. Licences may be required for movements of livestock, pigs and horses on or off a holding within a disease control zone that also has poultry on it, even if it’s just a few hens in the garden.

A general licence has been issued for the movement of mammals (including livestock) from or to premises in the Protection or Surveillance Zone in England or Wales where poultry and other captive birds are kept (please note that any mammals moved under this licence must have no access to and been kept separate from poultry and any other captive birds for a minimum of 21 days). In order to use the general licence, you must follow all of the requirements listed within the licence. The full list of general licences can be found on the government website.

If there are no poultry or captive birds on both the holding where the movement starts and the holding where it ends then movement licences are not required (unless either site is under individual restriction).

What does the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone mean for me?

The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone is largely about preventing wild bird contact with captive birds and poultry. It includes a suite of measures applicable to all poultry keepers. So however many birds you own, you are legally responsible for meeting the biosecurity requirements set out by the government.

Consequences of avian influenza – what will happen if my birds get AI?

In the event of avian influenza being confirmed in your flock, any surviving birds will be culled. You only receive compensation from the government for any healthy birds (birds showing no signs or symptoms of the disease at the time of culling) at the value of the birds immediately before culling.

Your holding will also be placed under strict restrictions, affecting all movements on and off the site, including but not limited to people, livestock, bedding, feed and manure.

As the infected premises, you would also be responsible for carrying out and paying for secondary cleansing and disinfection which may have significant financial implications.

This is also linked to when the UK can regain official disease-free status for avian influenza from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Not being able to carry out secondary cleansing and disinfection or a delay in completion can have serious implications on our international trade in poultry meat, eggs and breeding chicks.

What are the risks of avian influenza to humans?

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that the risk to the general public’s health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products are safe to eat.

All the information relating to the latest confirmed cases of AI in the UK plus guidance and advice for poultry keepers can be found in our AI hub.

If you can’t find the information you need on this page, please contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.

Animal health Avian Influenza

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