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Bird flu concerns stay mostly in background

Avian influenza is still present but there seems to be little effect so far on chick and poult prices, though there is not a surplus in availability

Game farmers are reporting that birds are laying well and rearing is going to plan

The H5N1 strain of bird flu (avian influenza, or AI) is still with us. The game shooting community is continuing to do everything within its power to reduce the risk of its spreading and confirmed cases do appear to be tailing off. That said, it is still a worry, and something else for game farmers, shoots and Guns to think about. 

The well-publicised outbreak at the Bettws Hall hatchery at the end of April thankfully appears to have little, if any, knock-on effect on chick and poult prices, with most game farms having already factored the risks posed by AI into their pricing.

Will Horner, hatchery manager at Cambrian Birds based on the Shropshire/Welsh borders, echoed the thoughts of many when he described AI as “a concern, and another thing we have to deal and learn to live with, but not something we are particularly worried about on a day-to-day basis”.

At this stage of the hatching and rearing season, it appears unlikely that there will be any shortage of eggs, chicks or poults. Although, it is equally unlikely that there will be a surplus and doubtful that there will be any late poults being sold off at last year’s prices.

Imported eggs and chicks are arriving almost daily, with UK game farms and keepers reporting that their birds are laying well and that the rearing is going to plan. That said, while order books are full, in most cases they are now closed to new business. Rearers have set their limits, and in the main are unwilling to increase their risk and possible exposure to further outbreaks of AI. People who have held off ordering in the hope of securing a cheaper last-minute deal on late poults may well find themselves without any birds.

With warmer days ahead of us and concentrations of wild birds less likely over the summer months, it is hoped that the UK will have a month of two free of further outbreaks. Happily, the Government seems likely to resist the call made by the RSPB for the release of gamebirds to be prohibited.