Third Victorian poultry farm declares outbreak of avian influenza, source under investigation

Third Victorian poultry farm declares outbreak of avian influenza, source under investigation
  • PublishedJune 4, 2024

A third poultry farm has declared an outbreak of avian influenza in Victoria.

Farm Pride Foods announced this morning the viral strain detected at its Lethbridge aviary site was “the same strain found on the egg farm at Meredith” about 10 days ago.

Those farms are about 10 minutes’ apart by road in the Golden Plains Shire in central Victoria.

A different strain of avian influenza — H7N9 — was discovered at a farm at Terang on May 24. 

Farm Pride Foods said it had been collaborating with Agriculture Victoria to conduct hen health assessments.

Tests on June 1 showed hens kept in sheds were free of bird flu.

But tests carried out on Sunday, June 2 showed free-range hens had the H7N3 strain, with the results received on Monday.

Second outbreak for producer

Farm Pride Foods said in a statement there were 80,000 free-range hens at the Lethbridge Aviary site, which is about 8 per cent of the company’s total production capacity.

The company has a further 40,000 birds in the Lethbridge area, which are also subject to monitoring and testing.

This is the second bird flu outbreak for the egg producer in four years.

In 2020, Farm Pride Foods faced two avian influenza outbreaks on its Lethbridge properties.

Those outbreaks led to the culling of 380,000 egg-laying caged, barn and free range hens – 33 per cent of the company’s stock.

A chicken farm under quarantine
Movement restrictions are in place in a bid to control the bird flu outbreak.(ABC News: Rochelle Kirkham)

Poultry owners to keep bird in cages in restricted area

Agriculture Victoria has confirmed it is responding to the detection of avian influenza at three Victorian poultry farms.

“This new infected property is located within the current 5-kilometre restricted area in the Golden Plains Shire,” Agriculture Victoria said.

“Tests have now confirmed the high pathogenicity H7N3 strain of the avian influenza virus at the property.

“This property has been placed in quarantine and all poultry will be safely disposed of. The sites will be cleaned and cleared of the infection.”

The H7N3 strain of bird flu has previously been detected in wild birds.

Disposal options being considered

The new farm outbreak is no surprise, Agriculture Victoria deputy chief vet Cameron Bell told the Victorian Country Hour on ABC Radio.

“It’s clearly as a result of the ongoing and intensive surveillance activities that we’re undertaking within the restricted and control area,” Dr Bell said.

Authorities are examining disposal options for hens at the centre of this latest bird flu outbreak.

“At this stage, no activities have commenced but we’ll be determining the most feasible options in collaboration with the owners,” Dr Bell said.

About a quarter of the state’s eggs are produced in the Golden Plains region where the avian influenza-hit farms are located.

“Having a concentration of poultry enterprises there does mean that owners need to be on the lookout and report any unexplained deaths to Agriculture Victoria,” Dr Bell said.

Movement controls that include a housing requirement for all birds within the restricted areas and control areas are now in place in Meredith and Terang.

Under the housing requirement, all poultry farmers and backyard flock and bird owners must house or keep their birds enclosed in cages or sheds as much as practical.

Agriculture Victoria says staff are on the ground supporting the businesses and working with industry to contain and eradicate the virus.

Contact tracing is also underway to determine the source and spread of the infection.


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