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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 10:44 GMT
Farmers worried by virus outbreak
Redgrave Park Farm
The H5N1 outbreak was confirmed at Redgrave Park Farm
Farmers in East Anglia are reeling from another outbreak of disease that once again threatens their livelihoods.

The confirmation H5N1, the highly contagious strain of bird flu, has been found in Suffolk follows incidences of bluetongue disease and foot-and-mouth.

A culling operation under way at Redgrave Farm, where the disease was found, has left other farmers wondering whether their operation is next.

"It's been like a bolt from the blue - it's heartbreaking," said Nigel Joyce, a poultry farmer from Fakenham, Norfolk.

"There had been issues on the continent about a month ago and it all cleared up... then we get this lightning strike for no apparent reason."

Free-range and organic

A 3km protection zone is in place around Redgrave Farm and a 10km surveillance zone has also been set up, but other agricultural workers are concerned this will not be enough.

David Barker, who farms at Westhorpe, about five miles away from Redgrave, said the outbreak has knocked his confidence.

Godfrey Lomax
Well if they [Defra] say they've got to be slaughtered, they can come and do it - there's nothing else I can do
Godfrey Lomax, a smallholder

"There is a lot of outdoor poultry these days because of consumer demands for outdoor, free-range and organic poultry... and the farmers in this particular area are meeting what the consumers are requiring.

"There's a lot of poultry being kept not just in the big units, but lots of people in the local villages have chickens in their back yards and they've got to keep them inside for the time being."

And Nigel Joyce believes that these small poultry keepers have to be just as vigilant as the large farmers.

"It is important that they remain vigilant, that they do the job the professional poultry keepers do and keep these birds indoors fully protected from migratory birds until we find out the exact cause of this and then hopefully the restrictions will get lifted quickly," he said.

Godfrey Lomax, a smallholder in Redgrave, had his hens outside as news of the H5N1 virus broke.

Reserve open

He told the BBC: "They should be [put indoors] yes, but I'm afraid I'm not fit enough to catch them.

"Well if they [Defra] say they've got to be slaughtered, they can come and do it - there's nothing else I can do."

It is the migratory birds that farmers think may be the cause of this latest outbreak.

Defra's inquiries into the source of the virus are focusing on wild bird transmission but the exact source is still being investigated.

Mr Joyce believes that Defra is assuming at this point the outbreak is due to a migratory bird and that is why there is such a huge control zone.

It is really important we roll up our sleeves and we pull together and we help all concerned and we put this behind us as quickly as we can
David Barker, farmer

But at Redgrave and Lopham Fen, a nature reserve that includes a mixture of wet heathland, open water, scrub and woodland, there were no plans to close to the public.

"The reserve will definitely remain open," said Steve Aylward, property manager for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

"The more visitors we have on our sites, the more people there are out there being vigilant and looking out for dead birds."

Mr Barker said there was a great determination from the farmers in the local area to work with trading standards and Defra to overcome the avian flu outbreak.

"It is really important we roll up our sleeves and we pull together and we help all concerned and we put this behind us as quickly as we can," he said.



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The site of the latest outbreak in Suffolk



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