The U.K.’s National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling for the continuation of the Notifiable Avian Disease Scheme, a pilot project due to come to an end this May.

The one-year pilot, which was launched in May 2014, gives the poultry sector a way or ruling out notifiable disease promptly and allows the early detection of disease when chickens are not displaying clinical symptoms associated with a notifiable disease.

Under the scheme, private veterinary surgeons can ask the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to attend a consultation where a notifiable avian disease – avian influenza and Newcastle disease - is very low on the differential diagnosis list. APHA can then either rule out a notifiable disease on clinical grounds, or begin an official investigation and impose restrictions if disease is suspected.

NFU Poultry Board Chairman Duncan Priestner, said: “The sector has already benefited from early detection in the case of the low pathogenic avian influenza detected in broiler breeders in Hampshire on February 2.

“In this case, mortality was normal, however, a drop in egg production led the operator of the site to seek prompt advice from their vet. The vet in turn acted promptly and submitted samples to Weybridge laboratory under the Test for Exclusion Pilot. This particular case is a good example of the benefits of the Test for Exclusion pilot scheme and shows that it can be an effective tool in early diagnosis.”