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Coronavirus: Key advice for poultry farmers

NEW ADVICE covering the most common concerns that poultry farmers have raised over the coronavirus crisis has been published by the NFU.

It covers a range of potential issues thrown up by the unprecedented situation created by the spread of the coronavirus covid-19.

Here, we summarise three of the key areas of concern.

Working/Staff

Farmers who are too unwell to care for their stock should contact either the Animal and Plant Health Agency or their local authority if they are unable to arrange for alternative help.

Those who are self-isolating should follow government advice and the NFU has offered specific information for farmers, which includes eating healthily, taking fresh air when possible and limiting screen time.

See also: Egg market remains firm but could slip after Easter peak

It also suggests keeping up a routine and staying in touch with friends with technology such as Skype, Facetime or by phone.

Help and advice is available from the charity the Farm Community Network, which has a helpline open 7am to 11pm on 03000 111 999.

Essential visitors, such as delivery or collection drivers, or pest control companies, are still permitted to work, but hygiene protocols should be put into place.

Where possible, keep at least 2m apart from anyone performing essential services on farm and provide hand washing and drying facilities for visitors.

Also consider creating a checklist of key areas to keep clean, such as door handles and gateposts, and designating whos job it is to do so.

Assurance Schemes

Most have suspended physical inspections, and many have introduced “virtual” inspection regimes.

RSPCA has suspended routine assessments, and only new applicants, investigation of complaints or checking on members in special measures will take place.

Red Tractor is planning to launch an online portal to facilitate inspections, while the Lion Code has developed a live stream video audit.

Those with concerns over internet access or phone signal should speak with the relevant assurance scheme.

For Salmonella testing, farmers should continue as usual, unless otherwise advised. “Our advice is to ensure that you have sufficient consumables on farm, to consider sampling early (but be mindful of how long the test is valid for) and if possible, consider hand delivering the sample to ensure delivery or if not practical send it by recorded delivery or courier and keep in touch with the laboratory.”

Packaging, PPE and Bedding

Strict EU guidelines govern the information on egg packaging, and professional advice should be sought in individual cases where usual packaging may not be available.

PPE or, personal protective equipment, is in high demand with many industries diverting supplies to the NHS. Take stock of your supply and expected needs and speak to your regular supplier.

The majority of sawmills have closed, prompting fears that there will be a shortage of bedding.

Red Tractor producers who use bales for litter purposes that would otherwise serve as an enrichment should contact the assurance scheme before doing so for a derogation.

The full guidance document can be found on the NFU’s website.