SCOTLAND, UK - The first of ten Avian Influenza (AI) roadshows has been held in Perth, Scotland, run by the UK Poultry Health and Welfare Group (PHWG).
The meeting attracted over 100 delegates with poultry producers, Scottish Government, APHA, Local Authorities, SRUC, FSA Scotland and the Scotland CVO Sheila Voas.
Máire Burnett from the British Poultry Council said: “The PHWG was formed in order to identify industry issues, focusing on health and welfare, and to take these issues forwards to policy and delivery. We recognised that we needed to raise awareness of AI amongst poultry farmers in order to ensure they are fully prepared in the event of an outbreak.”
Dr Barry Thorp from St Davids Poultry Team opened the presentations providing information on clinical signs of AI in a poultry flock and the importance of biosecurity in preventing and controlling outbreaks of notifiable diseases such as AI.
He said: “Investment in biosecurity makes economic sense based on the risk assessment.” He urged producers to really think about their own situations, and identify how they can protect their flocks with effective biosecurity.
Dr Michael Park, Veterinary Head of Exotics and Welfare for APHA Operations, presented in detail on the APHA response to suspicion and confirmation of an AI outbreak.
He stressed the importance of all keepers of poultry to make sure they are on the Poultry Register, maintaining good biosecurity and the importance of keeping good records.
He said: “It’s vital that all keepers of poultry are registered so that we can ensure we minimise the risk and impact to businesses during an outbreak by being able to contact those in the affected protection and surveillance zones.
“The movement restrictions put in place while we conduct tracing operations and identify the source are applicable to every poultry premise in the zone – hatcheries, slaughterhouses, commercial sites and even backyard poultry.”
Know your boundaries
It’s not just the Infected Premise (IP) that is impacted when there is an outbreak of AI.
Businesses in the zones are also placed under restrictions and will require movement licences, and the knock-on impact on the ability for the UK to export poultry products can be substantial.
The three single outbreaks in the UK over the past 12 months is estimated to have cost the poultry meat industry in excess of £50 million in lost exports and displaced products.
Dan Pearson, Veterinary Health Director at Aviagen (Europe) expanded on this during his presentation covering the impact of AI on the industry.
Mr Pearson said: “There’s a constant risk of LPAI as it’s now endemic in the wild bird population. The cost of an outbreak both to individual businesses and to the UK as a whole can be a significant figure.
“While the IP faces the cost of secondary cleansing and disinfection, loss of birds and business interruptions, there’s also restrictions placed on the country under OIE regulations which affects the ability to export.”
It is this impact to the industry as a whole and to individual businesses, that highlighted just how important it is for producers to develop a business contingency plan. Exactly what producers would need to consider was covered in extensive detail by Daniel Dring from PD Hook.
Mr Dring really stressed the need for businesses to consider what they would need if faced with an outbreak.
“It’s so important to build a contingency plan for your business. One of the issues that businesses can face is not knowing where their boundaries are – you need to know exactly where the boundaries lie. In the event of an outbreak, if a part of your premises is within a zone, you are also under restriction.”
Do not underestimate the costs
Mr Dring also told producers: “You shouldn’t underestimate the cost of an outbreak, it can be anywhere from £500,000 to £10 million. You, as the producer, pick up the cost for secondary cleansing and disinfection and face not being able to operate for a significant period of time.”
The PHWG is developing a Standard Operating Procedure for secondary cleansing and disinfection looking at a number of scenarios and production methods.
The running theme throughout the meeting was the importance of effective biosecurity and, if the correct precautions are taken, the UK can continue to control the spread of exotic disease.
Scotland Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas praised the PHWG for its initiative to host these meetings across the UK. “AI is an issue that affects us all, across all poultry species. These roadshows are a great opportunity to raise awareness to prepare poultry farmers and also to get to know their local APHA representatives.”