British Goose Producers meet to discuss bird flu

The British Goose Producers have held their Spring meeting at Robert and Claire Symington’s Seldom Seen Farm in Leicestershire.

The producers discussed the milestone of 100 days, which has passed since the latest outbreak of H5N8 avian influenza. According to the British Poultry Council, bird flu is now expected to be an annual occurrence and producers both large and small have to find a way to cope with it. All the members of the BGP are determined to do the right thing, as they are acutely aware that the effects of one incident of bird flu can disrupt trade on a national scale and cost businesses tens of thousands of pounds.

Goose producers are likely to be on the front-line in protecting against bird flu, the members discussed. Geese spend the majority of their lives foraging outside over large ranges, and so are exposed to wild birds that may be carrying the disease. BGP members discussed the ways in which small producers can take positive steps, and will be developing a protocol based on the Defra checklist to help the group. Every farm will have different challenges, but by sharing information and experiences there will be a network of good practice.

Areas to consider include:

  • Decontamination and separation of outside areas
  • Discouraging wild birds from landing on the range
  • Netting or covering ponds and waterlogged areas
  • Removing feeders and water stations from the range
  • Regular inspections for signs of rodent access
  • Separation of waterfowl and poultry
  • Dedicated footwear and disinfectant foot dips
  • Cleansing and disinfection of vehicles on entry and exit
  • Cleansing and disinfection of equipment

The meeting also discussed ways to engage with local communities to raise awareness with the public, such as those using public footpaths that cross farm land, or encouraging holders of backyard flocks to take similar sensible precautions. There was serious concern that it only takes one failure of biosecurity, in any sized farm, to land other producers in a control zone that at the wrong time of year could destroy a livelihood.

The British Goose Producers are taking seriously the threat of bird flu, and are confident that by working with Defra, APHA, vets, and the BPC, and by sharing good practice, goose will be firmly on the menu next Christmas.

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