Second cull of turkeys under way

A cull of a second flock of 5,500 turkeys has started today - about a mile from the Redgrave farm at the centre of the first outbreak of bird flu, Defra officials have confirmed.

A cull of a second flock of 5,500 turkeys has started today - about a mile from the Redgrave farm at the centre of the first outbreak of bird flu, Defra officials have confirmed.

The free-range turkey enterprise is regarded officially as “slaughter on suspicion” because Defra's Animal Health staff found dead birds at Grove Farm, Botesdale.

A spokesman for Defra said when officials arrived about 50 dead turkeys were found, so it was decided to slaughter the flock as a priority to prevent possible spread of the highly-pathogenic H5N1 strain of the virus.

However, a low level of mortality among turkeys, especially more fully-grown birds, is not unusual. And a statement, on behalf of Redgrave Poultry, the subsidiary of Gressingham Foods, added: “Defra's vets found about 0.5pc loss in the flock at Grove farm yesterday. It is worth noting that a normal aspect of production is the loss of a small proportion of birds.”

The latest cull at Grove Farm was originally designated by Defra as a “dangerous contact” and was one of four flocks to be slaughtered as a precaution to prevent further spread of bird flu. All the farms had links with Redgrave Poultry because members of the farm staff were looking after the birds.

Geoffrey Buchanan, operations director for Gressingham Foods, the Woodbridge-based poultry specialist, said that the cull at Redgrave Park Farm had been completed.

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He said that Defra planned to slaughter the birds at Botesdale and then Hill Meadow Farm, Knettishall. The other flocks at Stone House Farm, West Harling and Bridge Farm, Pulham, are also regarded as “dangerous contacts” and will be culled in due course.

A total of 22,000 turkeys plus about 6,500 turkeys, ducks and geese, will be culled as part of Defra's control strategy.

Mr Buchanan also said that “to date, Defra's tests have not shown any evidence of avian influenza at any of the five farms other than Redgrave Park.

“We hope to know by tomorrow (Friday) morning if Defra's tests find avian influenza in the samples taken at Grove farm,” he added.

He also robustly rejected speculative reports in some national newspaper about the reasons for the cause of the outbreak. It has been suggested that day-old ducklings might have been imported from Holland and this claimed was firmly denied in today's edition of the EDP.

Mr Buchanan said: “We know of no direct link with the Netherlands and the five farms involved. All of our turkey poults and the feed are from the UK. The geese and ducks at Redgrave Park farm were also from the UK.”

In a statement yesterday, Mr Buchanan, said: “The ducks on the (Redgrave) farm are of the Pekin breed, although all were hatched and reared in the UK.”

And Defra said that the results of tests from the first IP (infected premises) on the 1,000 ducks and 500 geese were still awaited.

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