Since our last message regarding the H5N1 outbreak in France, we have been able to establish some facts about the situation, which we wanted to share with our membership as soon as we could.
The outbreak in France has become worse rather than better. As you can see from the maps attached (see this link), there have been an increasing number of cases of the virus in farmed, captive and wild birds specifically in the Vendée and the Loire-Atlantique regions, which is where a significant proportion of the gamebird breeding stock is kept.
In France overall there have been 751 reported cases of H5N1 in poultry and 20 in captive birds. These figures are both more than double those seen in any other European country.
We are continuing to work hard with the Game Farmers Association, Defra and their French counterpart, the APHA and vets to find a workable solution and to obtain birds for the upcoming season.
However, there are serious challenges to overcome if we are to have French-bred game birds in the UK this year. With this in mind, we would urge all keepers and shoot owners and managers to have a serious conversation with your bird supplier as a matter of urgency about what they realistically hope to be able to supply you with for the upcoming season.
The virus is likely to have a serious impact on partridges in particular.
With regards pheasants, it is still too early to tell how significant the impact will be. The NGO are in constant dialogue with the Game Farmers Association, as well as vets, Defra and the APHA in a bid to plug as many gaps in the pheasant supply chain as possible. This is moving in a positive direction.
We would urge all shoot organisers and managers to bear in mind the impact this might have on your shoot days and overall business for the upcoming season, as well as any immediate spending on your shoot.
We are confident that there will be some birds, but given the situation in France, it would be wise for shoots to be realistic about the number of shoot days and birds that they can expect and try to organise your other outgoings accordingly.
This is a fast-evolving situation, and we will continue to update members as soon as we know of any further developments.