The state’s turkey producers are on a knife’s edge ahead of Christmas dinner because of fears that avian flu will affect additional flocks before processing begins in early December.
Hundreds of thousands of turkeys are expected to be shipped to stores, butchers and supermarkets by the first week of December – just over a week away.
A herd of 30,000 turkeys has already been humanely killed in Monaghan, South, after the confirmation of avian influenza virus subtype H5N1. The virus has also been found in 49 individual wild birds in a total of eight counties. It is highly contagious among birds but no cases of human infection have been reported and therefore the risk to people is thought to be very low.
Now many turkey producers whose birds peak in about 10 days are concerned that they are in a race against time to protect their flocks from infection via wild birdseed, and deliver their turkeys to the processor.
Gere McMiller, who raises 3,000 turkeys on his family’s farm near Maynooth in Kildare, has the honor of supplying turkeys to the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s annual Christmas Day dinner for the homeless.
Mr McMiller, who is the third generation in his family to produce turkeys for Christmas, said some were even delivered to hostels around Dublin “so we will spend the next two weeks trying to keep the wild birds out of the shed.” I will do whatever I can for.” “It’s difficult to keep strange crows out of the shed, so it’s a matter of concern but we’ll try very hard,” he said.
The first reported infection of farmed poultry was confirmed in Ireland last Friday, 19 November, which Mr McMiller said was almost a month earlier than the first outbreak of bird flu in Ireland last year. Since this outbreak, the Department of Agriculture has issued a housing order, which requires that all farmed poultry be kept indoors.
Mr McMiller’s concern is reflected by Nigel Reneghan, chairman of IFA’s organics project team and former chairman of IFA’s poultry division. Mr Reneghan said on Tuesday that there was a “real possibility of Turkey’s shortage” if the virus spreads. He said that such an event would cause huge losses to the growers of turkeys.
However, Andrew Boylan, chairman of the IFA Poultry Committee, took a more optimistic stance and took issue with fears over the supply of turkeys. He said: “I can assure you that we are in a position to deliver the Board Biya quality assured birds to all who want them”. Mr Boylan, who raises about 80,000 “broiler” chickens, said the “bio-security” around the farms was very good. He said poultry farms were very concentrated in northern Co Monaghan, but the farm that was the subject of the most recent outbreak was in south Monaghan, where poultry farms were not dense in the area.
Mr Boylan said biosecurity was key to preventing spread among farmed poultry and that he knew “farmers are very strict about this”.
The National Center for Disease Control (NDCC) part of the Department of Agriculture is closely monitoring the situation and has been in regular communication with industry stakeholders including IFA.