News

Bird ban lifted in time for Castlewellan Show

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

THE lifting of the avian influenza ban just weeks before the closing date for the poultry section of Castlewellan Show, has been welcomed by the section 's chairperson.

Andrew Bingham said if the ban had not been lifted in time, there was a real possibility there would not have been a poultry section at this year's show.

Last week the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said the avian influenza prevention zone would not be renewed when it expired last Wednesday (31 May).

The zone required bird keepers in Northern Ireland to put in place enhanced biosecurity measures prior to letting their birds outside, in order to reduce the risk of disease.

The ban on shows and gatherings of poultry, waterfowl and game birds was also lifted last week, with a new general licence coming into force to reflect this change .

A number of shows at the start of this year, notably Balmoral Show, were affected by the ban.

Mr Bingham said the organisers of Castlewellan Show, which takes place on Saturday, 15 July, were expecting the poultry section not to go ahead.

"Up to this point we were very nearly pulling out of the show, if the ban was not lifted. It means there is a future in the showing end of things," he said.

Welcoming the news that regulations were removed, he said the poultry display would not have been what it was in the past.

At a meeting with DAERA last week, Mr Bingham said they were "given the go ahead" to prepare for the show.

"Because it's the 50th anniversary of the show, we have more breeds coming and we were getting quite worried whether it would be going ahead or not.

"If the ban had not been removed the only way we would have worked would be to have one man's display at it, which would have been about 30 birds.

"The lifting of the ban was quite close to the deadline. At this stage, only for everything being sitting ready to go, we would have been too late to prepare for it." The entries are open until Friday, 30 June with 165 classes this year with sections including an egg section and a selling section.

The judges this year are Ian and Elizabeth Allonby from Cumbria.

"We have added a number of extra classes because it is the 50th anniversary, " he said.

"We are taking a wider range of poultry and waterfowl of all classes, including guinea fowl and quail." Mr Bingham said all the exhibitors were due to receive notifications last weekend.

Chief Veterinary Officer, Robert Huey said the news of the ban being lifted was a welcome one.

"This will be welcome news for many keepers who have opted to keep their birds indoors to protect them from a seasonally increased risk from highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8.

"This decision has been made following a recent veterinary risk assessment concluding that the risk of avian influenza incursion to poultry and captive birds in Northern Ireland is low," he said.

"This has been a testing time for all of us, and I would like to thank all bird keepers in Northern Ireland for their co-operation and vigilance. Your positive and committed response has helped us to reach this point.

"Specific licensing arrangements relating to the importation of poultry and hatching eggs, ornamental fowl, racing pigeons and captive birds from GB remain in place.

"Poultry and other bird keepers are reminded that anyone who has any poultry or any other captive birds, must be registered with the department.

"This will ensure they can be contacted quickly in an avian disease outbreak, enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity." UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt also welcomed the news and said they were "glad to see the risk of H5N8 to our industry has now been reduced to low".

"The last few months have been a difficult time for the poultry sector," he said.

"However, clear communication from DAERA's veterinary officials and a proactive response from the industry have helped us to ensure the continued exclusion of H5N8 from the NI poultry sector."

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