Preston businesses worry as bird flu cases rise across Lancashire

There have been bird flu reports in Kirkham, Salwick, Blackpool, Lytham and Staining.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 3:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th November 2021, 1:30 pm

Poultry farms from around Preston have expressed concern at the recent outbreaks of bird flu across the Lancashire area in the run up to Christmas.

Yesterday afternoon, a bird flu outbreak was confirmed in Kirkham, leading to a 3km and a 10km 'red zone' being put in place around the area, going as far as Fulwood, and this comes following earlier cases across the county over the past few days.

A cordon with warning signs advising people to stay away from birds is currently in place in Blackpool’s Stanley Park after four swans, two geese and two cygnets have died there this week of suspected bird flu, with a third cygnet also having to be euthanised in Lytham.

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Michael Tomlinson and his son, Stewart, run Tomlinson's Turkeys- the family have reared turkeys at Salwick Hall Farm for over forty years.

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Bird flu outbreak confirmed in Kirkham

The potentially deadly virus, which rarely affects humans, was also confirmed at a farm in Salwick on the outskirts of Preston on Saturday, with all birds at the farm being culled to prevent further spread of the disease.

A temporary surveillance zone was then set up spanning 10km in every direction from the farm, reaching Bamber Bridge, Lytham, Catterall and Much Hoole, South Ribble.

On Sunday, November 7, two swans were also found dead in ponds at Cypress Point, Lytham, and a third was euthanised, whilst another cygnet with a suspected case of bird flu was euthanised after being found in Staining on Friday.

Kara Johnson runs Johnson & Swarbrick's farm alongside her uncle, Bud Swarbrick, (left), and cousin, Adam

Although the Salwick outbreak is the only case reported near Preston so far, concern is raising amongst poultry farms in the area.

Michael Tomlinson, the owner of Tomlinson’s Turkey in Preston said: "One of the farmers who got it was my brother, and he's had his turkey's culled and is absolutely devastated, so with two farmers in the Salwick area getting it, and then one at Kirkam, I'm stuck in the middle, wondering how I'm going to manage. My turkeys are well, they're clean, they're dry, they get regular veterinary inspections to check that everything's okay, but it's still very concerning.

"All my bothers turkeys were ordered for Christmas, so now people are looking for turkey's and there's none around! It's a difficult time for us, it's four weeks before Christmas and these birds are in prime position so I would be absolutely devastated if my farm was affected, I'm on vigilant alert most of the day keeping an eye on them, but everything's okay for the moment."

Michael added: "What's caused it is the migration of birds, it's a big issue, they're coming up the country and it's come to Lancashire for the first time in a long time so it's really concerning for all poultry farmers."

Swans at Cypress Point in Lytham.

Another farm included in the 10km 'red zone', is Johnson & Swarbrick poultry farm in Goosnargh, the producers of the famous Goosnargh Chicken and Duck.

Office Manager, Kara Johnson, who runs the farm alongside her uncle Bud Swarbrick and cousin Adam, said: "We've just got the turkey's on site at the minute, and last time there was bird flu, I think in Summer 2015, we were in the 3k restriction area, so we're not as restricted with these birds this time, but we have been through it before and it is always a worry when you've got a business.

"It's more worrying at Christmas time but we just take all the precautions we can and hope for the best, there's nothing much more you can do. Obviously we're more careful about who comes on site, we make sure the birds are okay, and no other things can get in the building that they're in.

"Hopefully we'll get through the next few weeks but when you have birds on site it is a concern, and last time, when we were in the 3k zone, it was really bad, we couldn't move birds from one cabin to another and some of the birds had outgrown their cabin so it was just a nightmare, but the birds are safe and sound at the minute and I hope that's how it stays."

Meanwhile, Ronnie Miller from R Miller Poultry firm added: "Bird flu is worrying to poultry farmers in general but it doesn't really affect us much anymore, it did once, and I would have had more concerns then but at the moment, although I am concerned, I'm not too concerned."

Lancashire is not the only area to be affected at the moment, with a bird flu prevention zone being declared across Great Britain last week to stop the spread of the disease following outbreaks in Scotland and Wales.