Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has launched a new text alert service to inform poultry producers of any disease outbreaks.

The new system ‘goes live’ as Northern Ireland Chief Veterinary Officer for Robert Huey urges farmers and other bird keepers to remain vigilant to the threat of avian influenza as the migratory cycle begins.

How to subscribe to text service

Huey said: “The Department has recently launched a new text alert service for all bird keepers to receive immediate notifications of disease outbreaks or other important disease information. This will enable bird keepers to take action to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity. I would therefore encourage bird keepers to subscribe to this service by simply texting ‘BIRDS’ to 67300.”

Farmers whose poultry has been registered and who have provided the DEARA with a valid mobile number will have automatically been subscribed to this service and notified by text. For those who did not receive a text confirming a subscription to the text alert service, DAERA does not have their mobile phone details and should therefore text ‘BIRDS’ to 67300 to subscribe to the new text alert service.

Northern Ireland Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey | DAERA

DAERA urges good biosecurity

Huey also urged bird keepers to continue with a high standard of biosecurity measures.

He added: “The risk of avian influenza remains a real and constant threat as the disease continues to circulate in Europe. With autumn upon us and decreasing temperatures, wild birds are starting their migratory cycle in preparation for winter. Wild birds increase the risk of avian influenza being spread through contact with domestic birds. I therefore urge bird keepers, especially those with free range systems, to remain vigilant and continue to practice high standards of biosecurity on their premises.”

DAERA advises people, whether they run a large commercial farm or keep just a few backyard chickens, to take these few simple steps to keep flocks disease-free:

  • Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly disinfect any hard surfaces. Clean footwear before and after visits.
  • Place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly.
  • Put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed, and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl.
  • Stay aware of the latest Avian Flu advice issued by DAERA.

Download a bird registration form from the DAERA website or by contacting the DAERA Helpline on +0300.200.7852. Bird keepers who have not yet registered their birds are advised to do so immediately.