The Game Farmers' Association

....representing the UK's game farmers & promoting high standards

Latest news and events....

Newcastle Disease Alert for Gamebird Keepers

GFA - Blog ImageThere have been several recently reported outbreaks of Newcastle Disease (ND) in commercial poultry and smallholder flocks in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The Animal and Plant Health Agency has raised the risk of ND occurring in the UK from low to medium meaning ‘outbreak likely to occur’.

ND is the only disease of birds notifiable in the UK other than Avian Influenza. It is normally absent here but can occur every few years. It is a viral infection and kills some, occasionally most birds in flocks it infects. Gamebirds are vulnerable, as are chickens, turkeys and other poultry. Control measures applied during outbreaks are much the same as for AI and can therefore lead to movement restrictions and potential business disruption.


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All bird keepers, including gamebird keepers, are being urged by Government to keep an eye on their birds for the clinical signs of Newcastle Disease. Affected birds may show some of the following signs. (The most severe signs will appear in fully susceptible birds i.e. unvaccinated birds or those with poor vaccine protection):


o   respiratory distress such as open-beak breathing, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
o   nervous signs characterised by tremors and paralysis and twisting of the neck
o   unusually watery faeces (diarrhoea) that are yellowish-green in colour
o   depression
o   lack of appetite
o   Affected birds may also suddenly produce fewer eggs. Eggs that are laid may be misshapen and soft-shelled.
o   Disease may be severe resulting in dramatic mortality in a large proportion of birds. Or it may have a lesser affect, with breathing problems and lower egg production being the only detectable clinical signs.
Defra's Advice to Gamebird Keepers and Vets:

·        Keep an eye on your birds for the signs of Newcastle Disease (above)
·        Maintain best practice biosecurity on your premises

·        Talk to your vet if you have any concerns and to discuss vaccination strategy 
·        Make use of disinfectant footbaths on entering and leaving bird areas
·        Ensure you use a vet who is familiar with commercial poultry/gamebirds who can give you advice on disease control
·        This strain of Newcastle Disease is particularly virulent and has not recently been seen in North Western Europe
·        This strain appears to be transmissible even in vaccinated birds – though with supressed clinical signs 
·        Mortality rates in Belgium were 10-20% of birds in affected flocks (even in vaccinated flocks)
·        Vets and gamebird keepers should ensure that breeding game birds are effectively vaccinated
·        Any vaccination boosters should be administered as per manufacturers recommendation
·        Vaccination protocols must be suited to the type and age of bird (injectable/oral/spray)
·        Ensure correct storage and administration of vaccines is carried out.
·        Gamebird rearers should consider vaccinating birds during the rearing cycle


RUMA win prestigious award for antibiotic work

GFA blog imageRUMA's Target Task Force initiative, in which the GFA plays a major role, won a prestigious international award for antibiotic reduction work last week, beating off many rivals, including many in the human health sector. This award recognises our AB reduction work.


The third Antibiotic Guardian awards took place on 27th June 2018. They celebrate the work of healthcare professionals across England in tackling antimicrobial resistance and form part of the ongoing Antibiotic Guardian campaign which is led by Public Health England. Click here to read the Press Release which RUMA issued after their win in the Prescribing and Stewardship award category. 

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For details of other winners and the runners up, visit Antiboitic Guardian Awards 2018 Awards website.

GFA host important fact-finding visits to a member’s game farm

GFA - Blog imageThe Game Farmers’ Association hosted two important fact-finding visits to a member’s game farm in late May 2018.


One was for a team of officials from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), and the other was for officials from mainland Europe. 





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On 21st May, the Game Farmers’ Association hosted two important fact-finding visits. The first was for a team of officials from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) who in particular deal with outbreaks of notifiable avian diseases such as Bird Flu.


During incursions of these diseases into the UK, not only do game farmers have the worry that their birds might become infected, they also have to contend with control measures such as movement bans and orders to separate kept birds from wild birds. These rules are often inevitably designed for the much larger poultry sector and not always appropriate for game.


The officials were shown how gamebird production necessarily differs from indoor poultry and how restrictions and licensing decisions can help or hinder the game sector, worth a staggering £2.2 billion to the UK economy each year.


The second visit was by officials from mainland Europe working to reduce antibiotics across all livestock sectors. Two were from DG Sante, the EU department of animal health, whilst others work within EU member states; France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The experts included individuals from Italy and Ireland.


Antibiotic reduction is essential to preserve these vitally important medications for human and animal health and the visitors were keen to hear how the GFA is spearheading a successful campaign to bring AB use down throughout the UK gamebird sector. Good bird management and hygiene are key starting points for AB reduction and it is therefore no surprise that during these two important visits, biosecurity was tight.


The GFA hosts similar fact-finding visits for politician and officials whenever they may help the long term future of the game farming profession.

New 2018 Joint Communication on Antibiotic Reduction

The Game Farmers’ Association has been central to the agreement of an important new 2018 Joint Communication, released last week, promoting further reductions in the use of antibiotics in the gamebird sector. Backed by all the leading game management and shooting organisations and also lead bodies for the veterinary profession, the document calls for a further 25% reduction in antibiotics and sets out a five point plan for achieving it.


“A GFA spokesman said, “Last year we led a voluntary campaign which saw antibiotics used in gamebirds decrease by 36%. This year we have brought more organisations on board and coordinated this collective advice to assist game breeders, their vets, their feed suppliers and their customers in reducing antibiotics further. We are totally committed to meeting the new target of a further 25% reduction by the end of 2020, a figure which expert vets advise us should be achievable  with hard work  on all sides but – all-importantly - without compromising animal welfare. We urge all involved in the gamebird sector the read the 2018 Joint Communication and follow its advice.”


To read the document click here.


Bird flu and Gamebirds: Revised Guidance Issued

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Government has joined with organisations involved in gamebird management to issue revised guidance on bird flu and the way it can affect the activities of gamebird rearers.


Published today by eight game shooting, research and game conservation bodies, the new guidance is endorsed by Defra, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments. Click here to access it.


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Advice on this subject was first agreed nationally last winter during a severe outbreak of notifiable bird flu in the UK. The new advice differs in that it is general in nature and no longer date sensitive. Specific advice relating to any actual outbreaks will be published separately so that this standing advice can remain clear and widely available.


A spokesman for the eight stakeholder bodies said, "The UK is currently free of bird flu and whilst we hope that will remain the case, it is important to keep awareness and biosecurity high to reduce risks and to be ready should the disease reappear. Gamebirds can catch bird flu and the activities of gamebird rearers may also be affected by official controls introduced to eradicate the disease elsewhere. The advice explains the signs of the disease and what to do if it is detected. It also sets out the typical control measures, explaining how they might affect each aspect of gamebird management. It urges all gamebird keepers to make contingency plans now, lest their birds be infected with bird flu or their activities caught up in movement restrictions and other control measures.


The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, said:


"We are pleased to endorse this important revised advice. Bird flu remains a serious concern and the control measures required can be fast-moving and comprehensive.


It will help the gamebird industry to have approved, standing advice widely available so that keepers can plan ahead to minimise their risk of the disease."


Gamebird Sector Cuts Antibiotics by 36%

GFA blog imageOrganisations involved in shooting and gamebird management have welcomed a big fall in the amount of antibiotic used in the rearing of pheasants and partridges in the UK.

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Figures endorsed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) have been released today showing that antibiotics used in gamebirds were brought down voluntarily by 36% in 2017 compared to 2016, including a 53% reduction for those administered in gamebird food. (Gamebirds are reared in the spring, which is why the 2017 results are already available).


The 36% fall comfortably exceeds the 25% official reduction target for gamebirds in 2017, developed by the sector and agreed by the VMD earlier this year. The actual reduction was calculated from veterinary prescribing records. Vets are responsible for prescribing all antibiotics administered to gamebirds.


The encouraging results come at a time when all livestock sectors have been asked by Government to reduce their use of antibiotics in the face of global concerns about antimicrobial resistance – the evolution of bugs that will not respond to treatment with antibiotics.


A spokesman for the above shooting and gamebird management organisations said, “These large reductions have been achieved voluntarily and in just one year through the hard work of game farmers, gamekeepers, the veterinary profession and the game feed trade. We welcome today’s results as an excellent start to our continuing campaign for antibiotic reduction.”


Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive Officer of the VMD, said, “The significant reductions achieved in 2017, the same year that the sector started to collect and scrutinise its antibiotic usage data, highlight the strong commitment of the game bird industry to bring down antibiotic use. The reductions achieved in 2017 are to be highly commended, and are an encouragement to all to continue the good work.”


John Fitzgerald, General Secretary of RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance), whose conference, ‘Facing Up to the Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge’ was held in London today, said, “We congratulate our colleagues in the game sector on their excellent 2017 antibiotic reduction results. The enthusiasm and commitment with which the whole sector has engaged with this process is exemplary and we have every confidence that they will achieve further reductions in future years.”


Antibiotics are used in gamebird rearing, as in other livestock sectors, for the treatment of natural diseases. Their use is sometimes essential for welfare reasons but administration of antibiotics can be reduced through good biosecurity and correct management, in close liaison with specialist vets.


The lessons learned from this year’s gamebird rearing season will be collated during November at a meeting of vets being hosted by the Game Farmers’ Association. Advice arising from that meeting will be provided free of charge to all game rearers in anticipation of further antibiotic reductions next year.




The Game Farmers' Association

PO Box 3629


RG40 9LG


T:  01189 797255