Many of Scotland’s small-scale poultry farmers do not consider themselves to be part of the industry and have little knowledge about disease control practices.
Research by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) found that almost 80% of 200 backyard flock owners surveyed did not feel part of the nation’s poultry sector and had poor levels of understanding about biosecurity and disease risk.
Commissioned by the Scottish Government, the report said engagement with small-scale egg and poultry producers on disease had to be improved, particularly in the light of the ongoing threat posed by avian influenza.
In the UK, poultry keepers with fewer than 50 birds are not required to register with official authorities and may therefore be less aware of legislation, rules and biosecurity best practices that are being implemented by commercial farmers, the report says.
In a parallel survey of 79 small to medium sized egg producers (between 50 and 32,000 laying hens), around a quarter of respondents said their poultry had never been seen by a vet, while over 80% said they kept other livestock alongside their hens – a factor which can increase the chances of disease transmission.
Around 38% of respondents also felt unattached to the Scottish poultry industry. Carla Gomes, who led the project, said: “These results reinforce just how important it is to promote engagement with backyard and small poultry keepers.
“Better communication across the industry will increase the uptake of relevant information, such as awareness of disease control programmes, and therefore reduce the risk of diseases being spread.”