Local Poultry Farmer Still Reeling from Bird Flu Outbreak
W.E. Botterill & Son, a family-run poultry farm located in Croxton Kerrial, Leicestershire, is still feeling the devastating impact of the bird flu outbreak that occurred last year. The farm was forced to cull approximately 16,000 birds in October after they contracted avian flu. Richard Botterill, the owner of the farm, says that it will take them 18 months to restart the family business, which has been in operation for over 70 years.
Bird flu outbreak
The outbreak occurred during a time when the UK and the world saw the biggest ever outbreak of bird flu. Four million farm birds were culled globally, and since then, free-range poultry has been subject to a national housing order to try and curb the spread of the virus. However, owners were no longer required to keep poultry indoors as of Tuesday, giving farms like W.E. Botterill & Son a chance to get back on their feet.
The Botterill family is well-known in the area for leading geese around the village to a paddock where they graze. According to Mr Botterill, the virus was most likely contracted from visiting wild birds. He expressed his devastation at having to cull his birds, saying, "To know you've got to lose those birds because they've got a problem, it's devastating."
The majority of the geese, turkeys, ducks and chickens at the farm, which is located near Melton Mowbray, had been ordered by local people and businesses for Christmas. Mr Botterill said that to lose even one Christmas production is bad, but to lose them for two years would be a major blow, and potentially could mean losing customers forever.
The family farm will now have to start from scratch, which Mr Botterill says will be a long process. "All and all from the point of infection to actually getting restarted, it's going to be an 18-month period that we're not producing anything and also not generating any income to the farm," he said. Although Mr Botterill is not able to restock his flock yet, he is rearing birds on a neighbouring farm and hopes the birds will be grazing on his fields again by the end of November.
The impact of the bird flu outbreak has been felt across the poultry industry, with many farmers struggling to cope with the economic and emotional toll of losing their flocks. The Botterill family's story is just one example of the devastating impact that the outbreak has had on farmers in the region. The hope is that with the lifting of the national housing order, businesses like W.E. Botterill & Son will be able to recover and get back to supplying their local community with fresh, free-range poultry.