Winter is coming, as the phrase from popular TV drama Game of Thrones goes. For characters of the hit series it means monsters marching on humanity to wreak terror, for poultry farmers it’s avian influenza.
In the UK the risk of the disease returning, after last winter’s unprecedented number of outbreaks, is very real.
The government has raised the official risk from low to medium, mainly in light of H5N8 outbreaks across Europe. Italy has reported 17 recent outbreaks of the virus, with one farm housing 850,000 layers – one of the country’s largest.
In Germany, wild birds are once again turning up with the virus present, and Bulgaria has had two outbreaks.
As ever, there is little any farmer can do if the virus is directly introduced to birds, whether housed or not, but it’s more than possible to reduce the risk. Doing so is relatively straightforward – minimising visitors, maintaining a high standard of biosecurity and remaining vigilant to wild bird activity near your farm.
Bird flu might not be quite as terrifying as the creatures in Game of Thrones, but in preparing well for winter, your poultry farm will have the best chance of emerging unscathed next spring.