Poultry Board chair James Mottershead said that his first year as board chair had been challenging and nothing had prepared him to deal with the combination of AI, rising costs of inputs and supply chain issues.
James highlighted the NFU’s ongoing work supporting members and the wider poultry sector on these challenges, reflecting on the importance of political engagement to make sure members’ voices are heard in Westminster.
Vaccination not a silver bullet
Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss described the H5N1 variant as extremely virulent with one teaspoon of faeces being enough to contaminate tens of thousands of birds. The virus had over summered in wild birds and had survived 2022’s scorching temperatures, resulting in a single outbreak that effectively began in autumn 2021.
Since then, 7.8 million birds have been culled due to the disease.
Professor Middlemiss identified increased infectivity, greater spread in wild birds, efficient transmission and high survivability as some of the key factors that have contributed to the scale of the current outbreak compared to previous years.
She said that while work was underway to enable us to live with AI, vaccination was not the silver bullet and it would not be ready for this autumn.