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Defra issues new guidance as housing order ends

Free range hens

DEFRA has issued new guidance for poultry keepers as birds are once again let out onto ranges after close to 16 weeks.

The UK’s chief vets and bodies like the British Egg Industry Council, the NFU and the British Poultry Council have urged farmers to keep up the highest biosecurity standards.

See also: Poultry feed prices run ahead of broiler market recovery

They warned that there was still a risk of infection, given new outbreaks in late March.

A case of highly pathogenic H5N8 in broilers close to Uttoxeter, East Staffordshire, and a low-path strain of H5N3 was discovered in a flock of 4,500 breeding turkeys close to Winsford, Cheshire.

Despite this, Defra confirmed the housing order would be lifted on 1 April as the risk to Great Britain as a whole had decreased.

‘Welcome news’

It is understood that authorities in Northern Ireland plan to lift the housing order there on 12 April.

In a joint statement, Great Britain’s three chief veterinary officers said: “This will be welcome news for poultry keepers across the country who have put great effort into keeping their flocks safe this winter.

“We have taken swift action to contain and eliminate this disease, and all bird keepers – whether they have just a few birds or thousands – must continue to do their bit to maintain strict biosecurity measures on their premises so that we do not lose the progress that we have made over the past few months as Low risk does not mean No Risk.”

Defra has published detailed biosecurity guidance as well as a biosecurity self-assessment checklist.