By Dr Kenny Nutting BVetMed MRCVS, Director of St David’s Gamebird Services
There has been over the last month a rapid rise of bird flu in Southern France. Their second largest duck area has increased significantly in cases in recent weeks, primarily due to being a densely populated poultry area, and also because ducks are particularly good at spreading AI.
It’s concerning that that level of bird flu is not only active but also has been rising at these temperatures when really it should be declining at this time of year. While this has not affected the mid-west of France where most game bird breeding takes place at the moment, and while we are getting to the end of our laying season now, this does give us an important warning not to be idle. There is nothing to say that this time next year such a rapid rise in bird flu couldn’t happen in mid-west France , Hungary, Poland, or other areas of densely populated poultry areas and have severe ramifications on us again.
There are also a lot of wild birds that are still affected both in England and Europe which suggests that bird flu is probably going to continue to show over the summer period and therefore over the winter. At the moment, farmers on the ground are saying that they are seeing less dead seagulls than this time last year, which is certainly a positive to hold on to, but across the world the situation is getting worse and AI is spreading into new areas such as South America where it hasn’t been before.
France in particular obviously has a huge impact on us and our supply chain. Businesses there will likely continue to diversify their breeding stock to spread the birds out into other areas and protect themselves, and our UK businesses should do the same. As a business it would be suggested to split your sourcing to limit the risk if AI affected a certain area or country. I wouldn’t say there are any “safe” regions – everywhere carries its own risk, it is just important to understand the populations and poultry density in the regions you are sourcing from.
This means it’s important to know your supply chain well and fully understand where your eggs are coming from – it may be that the various places you are getting your eggs from in the UK are all sourcing from the same place.