Mary Breen gathered in her flock of Christmas turkeys for the last time last night.
he threat from the new strain of bird flu virus that has plagued turkey farmers in the UK, Europe and the US has changed their routine – one that dates back decades.
The turkeys always had to be brought in at night to protect them from their constant enemy – the fox.
“I’ve been keeping turkeys since I got married 40 years ago. We’ve always raised them free range but I would bring them in around 5pm every night so the foxes couldn’t reach them,’ said Mrs Breen of her farm in Oola, Co Limerick.
“They were out around 10am eating anything and everything and I brought them in as soon as it got dark. But now, with this new threat from this virus found in Cavan, I’ve taken them in and they’ll stay there until they’re ready for Christmas.”
“It’s not a big problem for us as we have a barn for the turkeys that we use for the calves earlier in the year,” adds Mary, who milks 60 cows on her dairy farm with her husband John.
Poultry farmers in Ireland have been ordered to keep their flocks indoors from today as concerns grow over the new strain of bird flu.
Agriculture Secretary Charlie McConalogue introduced regulations under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 requiring flock keepers to house all poultry and captive birds owned or controlled in a “secure building to which wild birds or other animals have no access ‘ to lock up. .
The strain of bird flu labeled HP A1 H5N1 was found after a dead swan found in Cavan was taken to a Department of Agriculture lab for autopsy on Monday.
The Cavan/Monaghan region is producing up to 75 pieces of Christmas turkeys for supermarkets and butchers, raising concerns after several wild swans were found dead in the area.
Meanwhile, in Limerick, Mary Breen says she loves raising turkeys for Christmas and is proud of the taste her birds are developing through living outdoors.
“They love cabbage, lettuce, carrots and nettles,” she says. “They would be looking around all the hours they were out. And it shows in the flavor when these turkeys come out of the oven.”
Raising turkeys for Christmas is a challenging task.
“This new virus is a major concern, especially for the larger commercial growers. I only have 12 turkeys this year. I bought them last August when they were just five weeks old.
“It takes over five months to finish a good sized turkey. All but one are chickens, as the hen is the best meat. A nice hen weighs about 20 pounds when she’s ready for the oven.”
Ms Breen says she raises turkeys every year despite challenges.
“This virus is a major concern. We managed to protect the turkeys from the fox for 40 years. But this new enemy is a very different enemy,” she said.
Although Mary has had to limit her outdoor feeding routine, she is confident that her turkeys will not lose their special free-range flavor.
“I’ll hang cabbage leaves in the sheds for them to feed on so their diet doesn’t change too much. With small numbers I can do that.
“But this lockdown will be a big challenge for outdoor breeders with large herds.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/weve-protected-the-turkeys-from-foxes-for-40-years-but-this-virus-is-a-big-worry-free-range-christmas-turkeys-brought-indoors-as-avian-flu-sparks-health-alert-42123615.html ‘We’ve been protecting turkeys from foxes for 40 years but this virus is a major concern’ – Free range Christmas turkeys brought indoors as bird flu sparks health warnings