Festive turkey concerns as bird flu spreads its wings

FERMANAGH’S Christmas shoppers could face a potential turkey shortage if the outbreak of bird flu spreads its wings to the poultry population.
Avian influenza – or bird flu as it’s also known – has been hitting the headlines once again, with multiple cases in England and the virus now approaching Fermanagh’s borders once again, increasing fears of a festive season gone ‘fowl’.
The disease spreads from migratory birds from east Asia and eastern Europe. Those birds would infect our domestic wild birds and then, depending on the individual farm, could infect local poultry flocks and even pet birds that people might be keeping as well.
That has sparked fears of turkeys across the water being rationed for the festive season as English poultry farmers are now under orders to keep their flocks of birds indoors.
Fears have gone up a level when last week the South implemented a similar order to England’s.
The North has an Aviation Prevention Zone in place that has seen current rules be tightened but not taken to the next level as has happened in England and the South – which means, for example, anyone who owns chickens in Blacklion must keep them indoors but those just over the border in Belcoo can continue to let theirs roam outside.
Jim Bree, the DAERA deputy director of animal health and welfare policy insists that as things stand, there are no plans to implement the same procedures as in England but states that the guidelines are under constant review.
He said: “We work very closely with the industry. You can keep this disease out but it is a difficult task. But by following good practices you will reduce your risk.
“I’m always careful when talking about this as not to jinx myself but we haven’t had any outbreaks within poultry in Northern Ireland this season – and long may that continue – which is a credit to our industry and our veterinary practitioners.
“But our position is that there is no issue with supply and that remains unaffected by the current outbreak. The Department and myself don’t underestimate the challenge that this presents to flock keepers. But there are some simple guides and steps on the DAERA website which sets out what people can do.
“If the situation deteriorated, one of the tools we have is to consider whether or not to continue to have poultry gatherings. Poultry keepers like to show their birds and their fancy fowl – plus there’s a social aspect around these gatherings as well.
“As with Covid when you bring lots of people together, the potential for avian flu to spread when you bring lots of birds together is there as well.
“However, we don’t believe that we’re at that juncture just yet where banning gatherings would be justified. But if that did happen, the next step would be a Housing Order which would require all birds to be kept housed in their coops or separate.”
Local butchers expressed mixed feelings about the current state of play regarding bird flu.
Fintan O’Doherty, a director of O’Docherty’s Butchers, Enniskillen, said: “Last year was very worrying – especially coming into slaughter time – there were some sizeable outbreaks here locally. Not a million miles away from where we are now.
“I suppose it’s up to the farmers to try and keep that under control. Last year there was a lot of talk about it but there wasn’t a big effect on us.
“We will deal with whatever we’re presented with.
“I’m expecting sales to remain the same. People will make Christmas work – no matter what.”
John Graham, who runs the butcher’s shop in Lisbellaw added: “There were no real issues last year with bird flu. We were able to get what we needed.
“There was plenty of availability and the weights of the birds were the same as usual. As for this year, I’ve no idea what way it’s going to be.”

To read more.. Subscribe to current edition

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA