Graham Crocker offers expert advice on what you can do to protect the birds on your shoot from bird flu...

Q: What can I do to prevent my shoot/birds from being affected by avian influenza?

GRAHAM CROCKER replies: This is a real worry hanging over our industry. The first thing I recommend is to focus on where you obtain your birds. Ideally, you would want to use a local reputable game farm with high biosecurity for the best start.

Next, limit the number of people that come into contact with the birds to minimise the possibility of bringing in any disease on their boots. Plus, it’s worth checking whether any of your team keep chickens at home – another source of infection!

Pen biosecurity is essential. Preferably you should invest in boot dips, only use Defra-approved disinfectant such as FAM30, and change it at least once a week.

Other essential biosecurity includes having a clean water system with probably an organic acid in the water which kill pathogens. I recommend using a nipple system as this stops most cross contamination between pheasants and certainly any contamination from wild birds.

Consider feeders that incorporate a tray to stop waste food from laying on the floor. This is a big no-no when it comes to disease prevention because of the higher stocking density normally associated with release pens than birds out in game strips.

Finally, you may wish to protect yourself financially by including a clause in your terms and conditions if you need to cancel due to being placed in a restricted area, and for your Guns to obtain cancellation insurance.