Lydiard Millicent looks likely not to be classed as a Higher Risk Area (“HRA”) when the restrictions on avian flu are reviewed on 28th February.
DEFRA has still to make a final decision on its policy, and is monitoring the situation carefully. The current restrictions, which mean that all poultry has to be kept under cover, continue until 28 February. However, according to guidance published today, it is likley that, after that date, there will be different levels of control across the country.
Poultry-keepers in an HRA will have to continue to house indoors, or keep their flocks separate from wild birds by the use of netted pens, cages, avaries or runs. Whilst the risk of infection with the H5N8 virus remains significant across the country, from 28 February, those in non-HRA areas, may allow their flocks access to enclosed outdoor areas, provided they have taken certain precautions to minimise the risk of contamination from wild birds. Full guidance can be found on DEFRA’s website.
EU legislation allows for a period of up twelve weeks of indoor housing before birds lose their free-range status. That period comes to an end on 28 February, so birds that continue to be housed indoors, for example, because they are in an HRA, can no longer be marketed as free-range. In non-HRAs, allowing flocks access to enclosed outdoor areas should allow them to retain free-range status.
In contrast to Lydiard, Swindon and areas to the north, including Purton Stoke and Cricklade, will be within an HRA, where the stricter controls apply. (The map to the righthand above shows the nearby HRAs shaded pink).
Risk depends upon a number of factors, primarily the flight paths of migratory birds and proximity to large areas of water where ducks, geese and gulls congregrate.
Whilst good news for local backyard flocks and small-holders, DEFRA still stress the need to practise good biosecurity and to monitor their birds’ health carefully.