It was a welcome piece of news that the country was declared free from bird flu again last week and that this allows continuation of free trade of poultry from the UK.

The concern still remains however that as the winter weather comes and the migratory patterns begin, the wild bird population brings with it an increased probability that we see some outbreaks again.

The focus must be on remaining vigilant and reporting cases early, but it is also important that we try to keep biosecurity as high as possible, looking at factors such as movement of vehicles and personnel for instance between duck ponds and water courses and pheasant and partridge stocks.  

I was asked to make a few comments relating to the challenges and to give some practical advice and the video can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzxwWqr2bp0

It is always difficult to remain positive when discussing a disease such as bird flu, particularly when it may impact on a shoot through wild bird ingress or because a neighbouring backyard chicken flock has become infected and the shoot is restricted from continuing. I find it very difficult to give good advice as to some extent it is down to chance and bad luck on a commercial shoot as opposed to a game farm where more biosecurity is possible.

It is a great relief that insurance schemes such as Shoot Protect have been set up to protect shoots if the terrible event happened and is a welcome comfort to all who have invested so much money over such a long period.

Early indications suggest that the quality of the sport appears to be strong despite a difficult release period and the substantial rain in the late summer. We have used record amounts of wormer in the birds and have seen record amounts of worms in shoots that have not focused on this in their health plans.

Vets in our Game Bird Practice are currently calculating our national levels of antibiotic use in the rear and release period in both food and water and early indications appear to suggest it has been reduced. Kenny Nutting will elaborate more on this in our next article.