The Ulster Farmers’ Union this week urged poultry farmers and backyard keepers to ensure they have strict biosecurity measures in place following the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) initial confirmation of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (AI) in Northern Ireland (NI).

DAERA has introduced a 3km disease control restriction zone around the infected premises, whereby all poultry and captive birds must now be kept in secure housing or separate from wild birds.

UFU Deputy President John McLenaghan said, “It is concerning that the detection of AI has been found this early in the season in County Down. To prevent the disease from spreading and to protect farm businesses and the entire NI poultry industry, biosecurity is crucial. Our poultry farmers implemented excellent biosecurity last season, helping to prevent the spread of the disease and I urge all poultry and backyard keepers to continue maintaining high standards of biosecurity and to practice good farm hygiene at all times.

“It is important that poultry keepers remain vigilant and keep a close eye on flocks for any AI symptoms. If producers suspect disease, they should contact their vet or local divisional veterinary office immediately.

"The registration of all birds in NI is key to controlling the disease.

“We all have a part to play in protecting our industry. I cannot stress how important it is that all backyard keepers, regardless of how many birds are residing on their premises, even if it is one hen, as well as poultry farmers, ensure that their flock is registered with DAERA. This includes hens kept in gardens. I encourage all producers to make themselves familiar with DAERA’s biosecurity self-assessment checklist and text alert service. It's vital that compliance with the rules is adhered to by everyone,” said Mr McLenaghan.