Free-range poultry farmer James Baxter said a contingency planning service helped him prepare to tackle an avian influenza outbreak and save him more than £45,000.
Baxter, who is currently the chair of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association, runs Glenhead Farm in Stranraer, Scotland. He turned to Livetec System’s Contingency Plan when his farm was impacted by avian influenza so that he could provide all the essential documents needed for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Having the paperwork ready meant that APHA were able to conduct testing very quickly preventing a further loss of £45,000 to the business.
Baxter’s farm has a large number of laying hens housed in 12 sheds and is situated on a peninsular and in an isolated spot away from other farms. At the time of the recent outbreak earlier this year, there were no Surveillance Zones or Protection Zones in place nearby. But despite maintaining strict biosecurity and operating an incredibly eco-friendly operation, he suspected one of his hen sheds may be affected.
On 26 January he found roughly 60 dead hens in the shed and others looking sick. He suspected they were infected with avian influenza and immediately contacted APHA and his own vet. He used the Emergency Response Plan that Livetec had prepared, which included all the necessary information to move the process for notifying a suspected disease along swiftly.
Since he had all the documents prepared in advance, it only took half an hour for APHA to review the information and discuss the next steps, enabling vets to take samples from the farm: “They spent the next couple of hours in the shed, gathering up a few samples.”
Once they collected the samples, they were sent to Weybridge for further examination. By this point, 70 hens had died. The vet confirmed Baxter’s suspicions and said he was pretty sure the birds had bird flu.
The vet came back on 28 January to discover the mortality rate had risen and 512 hens out of 190,000 had died. Baxter paid the costs for the 512 hens, but if the vet visited on Sunday, he would have had to cover the expense of 5,000 dead hens.
Not only was Baxter able to save £45,000 by reacting quickly, the Contingency Plan rapidly sped up the process of depopulation and allowed him to receive compensation quickly.
Baxter, who is due to speak of his experience at next month’s Bfrepa annual meeting, said: “Livetec can help people – I would 100% recommend Livetec as your partner in the event of an avian influenza outbreak. The services they bring, the experience that they bring to the whole thing just makes it a much simpler process. […] Livetec helps you to realise that there is actually life after avian influenza and you will get through it.”
Defra has launched a survey to estimate the cost of an avian influenza outbreak, which is being carried out by Fera Science. The survey will concentrate on the period between October 2021 and September 2022 and it encourages all poultry farmers and keepers of birds across the UK to participate.
The survey asks questions on how the housing orders and the extra biosecurity measures were enforced, the restrictions to normal business, alongside higher operating costs and the loss of income from bird fatalities to avian influenza, and how depopulation has affected UK bird keepers. There are also questions about how people’s holdings operate, what products are produced for sale and what biosecurity and housing measures have been employed across the period. It is designed to get a national level estimate of income lost.
*The survey Avian Influenza Impacts Survey (qualtrics.com) can be found here.
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