Different strains of Bird Flu (Avian Influenza, or AI) have been increasingly prevalent throughout the world in recent years and the UK, normally free of this serious disease, has also been subject to repeated outbreaks.
In the last three years the infection has been found here in wild birds and also farmed turkeys, chickens, ducks and pheasants. AI is a notifiable disease in the UK, meaning that all cases must be reported so the authorities can cull all infected birds and impose strict movement restrictions and biosecurity requirements to eradicate the disease.
Our country has an excellent record in this respect and that is partly down to the good cooperation which officials get from the various livestock sectors. The GFA is central to representing the gamebird interest on the National Avian Disease Core Group so we are very close to all the Government decision-making on this disease and the way it is handled.
AI remains a big threat to the gamebird industry as well as to all other avian livestock sectors but our involvement keeps things practical and focused whilst always trying to ensure the best for disease control, bird welfare and human health. At present, AI occupies a lot of the GFA’s time. No-one else in the gamebird sector can perform this role.
All modern livestock farming uses antibiotic (AB) to manage disease and ensure good welfare and whilst this remains essential there is also a strong and very necessary drive to bring AB use down so as to reduce antimicrobial resistance and the build-up of untreatable disease.
The UK gamebird sector is entirely on board with the campaign to get reduce AB and it is the GFA, as a member of RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance), which has been coordinating the sectors’ ambitious response. We have been instrumental in collecting prescribing data from all gamebird veterinary practices and game feed compounders and have worked with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate towards an agreed AB reduction target for our sector.
Gamebird vets, game farmers and gamekeepers have been kept informed throughout this process and are enthusiastic about getting AB use down. They keys to success will be top quality management and getting away from the old mentality of prescribing AB ‘just in case’. We are delighted with the way everyone is embracing this important ongoing campaign and, although our aims here are ambitious, we are hopeful that this year will see big reductions in AB use that will continue into the future as people re-adjust to keeping their birds in top condition using less.
Behind the headline topics like Bird Flu and antibiotic reduction, the GFA continues its day job of monitoring and reporting all developments that could help or hinder our member’s businesses.
Evaluating newly developed equipment, products and services is a good example of this work. Each season, members of our Executive Committee voluntarily try out new kit and ideas on their own game farms and these are then written up in our thrice-yearly members’ newsletters.
Getting competing businesses to share new ideas and best practice in this way is not always easy but the gamebird sector has a remarkable record of openness and cooperation. Ours is a relatively small and close-knit community and outsiders, from other livestock sectors or from Government for example, are often amazed how open, collaborative and effective the game farming sector is. That is largely down to the work of the GFA