Poultry sales at Melton market suspended indefinitely due to Bird Flu outbreaks

The suspension on poultry sales at Melton Cattle Market will continue indefinitely in the wake of UK outbreaks of Bird Flu.

Poultry on show during the Spring rare breeds show, held at Melton Cattle Market EMN-170303-145544001
Poultry on show during the Spring rare breeds show, held at Melton Cattle Market EMN-170303-145544001

Owners have been unable to sell their birds at the Scalford Road market since December, when the government ordered flocks to be housed to prevent circulation of the virus via wild birds.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has now permitted poultry to be let out into runs as long as they are suitably netted to prevent other birds getting in.

And the government department is hopeful poultry owners will be able to let their flocks outside again late next month when wild birds will have migrated from the UK and the risk of the disease spreading has eased.

Melton market manager Tim Webster said: “It’s all up in the air at the moment - we haven’t been given a date by Defra as to when the regulations will be eased so there will be no poultry sales at Melton until further notice.

“It has been a lot quieter in the poultry section of the market since the sales were stopped but we have got to adhere to the rules set by Defra.”

Some egg producers in the Melton and Rutland area will lose their right to market them as free range if they don’t follow strict measures on providing netted runs on a scale relevant to the size of their flocks because there is a 12-week limit to housing birds and that has now elapsed.

Alison Pratt, a spokesperson for the East Midlands branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said there was no period of grace in terms of giving flocks access to appropriate runs to protect free range value, which is higher than for sales of eggs from housed birds.

She said: “From what I understand, the larger egg producers aren’t risking the health of their birds but are keeping them indoors and foregoing the free range status.

“They’re putting labels on egg packaging to tell customers what’s happening and we understand that the retailers are supporting producers in this.

“The new prevention zone regulations are in place until the end of April, but continued assessment of the risk of AI infection (Bird Flu) will be undertaken and Defra may take the decision to keep precautionary regulations in place.

“We are not out of the woods as the incidence of a 10th outbreak in Northumberland last week told us and Defra is particularly keen to stress that the disease is still in the wildfowl and gull population.”

Large areas of the Melton borough have been designated as high risk zones for the circulation of Bird Flu because of the proximity to big bodies of water such as rivers and lakes, where wild birds reside.