100,000 birds killed after farm avian flu outbreaks



More than 100,000 birds have been culled at three Scottish farms amid the UK’s worst avian flu outbreak.

Ayrshire farmer Billy Robb told BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime program he lost 32,000 hens last week.

And the National Farmers Union revealed 72,000 birds had been “taken out” at two farms in Aberdeenshire in the last 10 days – taking the total to 104,000.

Last month just four avian flu cases were recorded in Scotland, compared to 80 in England.

It comes as 12 swans were believed to have died from bird flu after being found in a Glasgow park on Tuesday.

It is one of three non-commercial cases the NFU is aware of in Scotland.

Since November 7 all poultry and captive birds in England must be kept indoors, but Scotland’s chief vet said these strict rules would not be replicated north of the border.

Mr Robb said the situation was “crazy”.

“Our birds might have survived if they had been shut in a week or so before,” he said

Mr Robb said he suspected his hens were infected by migrating Canadian geese which stopped at a marsh on his farm.

He added: “This is definitely the worst the poultry industry has seen.”

“I have been doing this job for 30 years and my father-in-law farmed for 40 years before that.”

billy robb

Billy Robb said farmers had to rely on what retailers were prepared to pay for eggs

Mr Robb said farmers were not able to put prices up and had to rely on what retailers were prepared to pay, despite the challenges posed by soaring feed and energy costs.

As a result, he warned: “There is going to be a shortage of eggs for the whole of next year.”

Some shops including Asda and Lidl have started to ration the number of boxes of eggs customers can buy due to supply issues.

Asda said customers would be limited to buying two boxes of eggs until further notice, while Lidl is limiting customers to three.

Back yard premises

Scotland’s chief himself defended the decision to allow captive birds to remain outdoors in Scotland.

Sheila Vos told BBC Scotland she was “following the science”, saying there had been 100 outbreaks in England, but only six in Scotland since October 1.

She added: “Potentially housing would help, but housing is much less effective than improved biosecurity in general.

“The decision to house birds across the whole of Scotland has to be weighed against the negative impact on welfare.”

In addition to the famous cases in Ayrshire and Aberdeenshire, Ms Vos confirmed that three “back yard premises” were also affected – two on Orkney with a small number of birds and one on Lewis with about 200 birds.

Eggs - stock shot

Asda said customers could only buy two boxes of any size

Robert Thompson, of NFU Scotland’s poultry review working group, said the union had warned major retailers in spring about rising production costs and potential shortages.

He said: “It was well documented that we were facing a major crisis and that crisis has now happened.”

“By February we reckon there will be 7.9m less hens, so if you are out of eggs now they are going to be very scarce by spring.”

The latest outbreak of avian flu is the largest seen in the UK to date, and has affected the wild bird population as well as commercial and backyard flocks.

The Scottish government said the disease was also affecting wild bird populations elsewhere in the world, and it had published updated advice on the reporting, collection and safe disposal of wild bird carcasses.

A spokesperson said: “We are aware that there are a number of issues affecting egg supplies, such as the impact of Avian Influenza on all commercial flocks, the cost of living increases and a number of other issues, including labor shortages across all sectors of the industry.”