The Game Farmers' Association

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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.

GFA Opens Doors to Defra

GFA blog imageThe Game Farmers' Association (GFA) this week showed Defra round a game farm in the Home Counties where the main issue under discussion was the prevention of Bird Flu. 

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The visitors were from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which together work to keep the country free from Bird Flu and oversee its eradication when outbreaks occur.

 

Bird Flu is a notifiable disease currently circulating world-wide in various forms. It can affect all birds, captive or wild, and is often fatal, costing bird farmers dearly. Outbreaks impact on trade and some strains can also pass to humans, although this is rare. The Government has strict rules for eradication and for keeping birds in ways that reduce the risk of outbreaks.

 

The visit was an opportunity to build on the excellent cooperation that exists between Government and the gamebird sector. Discussion subjects included the restrictions that can apply on game farms during outbreaks and also best practice for keeping pheasants through the winter for egg production.

 

A GFA spokesman said, "This was a valuable 'peacetime' visit to review the overall disease situation and the often complex regulations that apply. It was also useful for more Government officials to see first-hand a game farm in operation and the measures that are constantly in place to minimise infection."

Bird Flu Confirmed in Norfolk on 3 June 2017

GFA blog imageThere has been an outbreak of H5N8 bird flu in a small backyard flock of chickens and geese, near Diss in South Norfolk. DEFRA published an order on the evening of Saturday 3 June confirming the outbreak and putting in place a 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone.

 

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No game birds can be released within the zones and any bir movements into, within and from the zones have to be licensed by a Government veterinary inspector. All kept birds must either be housed or otherwise separated from wild birds. The regulations also require careful record keeping in relation to all bird movements and vistors.

 

The Order, which includes a map showing where the outbreak and the zones are located, is on the Gov.UK website via this link Declaration of a Protection Zone and a Surveillance Zone (Avian Influenza).

 

Information on Bird Flu and Gamebirds was issues by the Government and seven leading game and countryside organisations on 3 March 2017. It includes explanation about how to separate kept birds from wild birds. You can read the information by clicking Revised Advice on Bird Flu and Gamebirds.

 

We will keep this area of the GFA website up to date with evolving news. In the meantime, all gamebird keepers are urged to be vigilant, to practice best possible biosecurity and to heed all the rules on record keeping and biosecurity in relation to the managment and, in particular, the movement of any kept birds.

 

The GFA Game Farming Guide contains further relevant information for members in the sections on Notifiable Diseases and Animal Transport.

 

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The Game Farmers' Association

PO Box 3629

Wokingham

RG40 9LG

 

T:  01189 797255

E:  secretary@gfa.org.uk