Following recent outbreaks of Newcastle Disease (ND) in Belgium and other European countries the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has advised that the risk of disease has increased from low to medium.
All poultry and captive bird keepers are urged to enhance their biosecurity and vigilance, by monitoring their birds for signs of disease, and reporting suspicion immediately to their private vet and to APHA. See https://www.gov.uk/, https://www.gov.wales/and http://www.gov.scot/ for further advice.
Poultry species that are affected by Newcastle Disease may show the following clinical signs:
• Respiratory distress, such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling and rattling
• Nervous behaviour, such as tremors, paralysis and twisting of the neck
• Unusually watery faeces that are yellowish-green in colour
• Depression and a lack of appetite
• Produce fewer eggs which could be misshapen and soft-shelled
Government has not imposed any restrictions on bird keepers in response to the findings of ND in Belgium. We continue to monitor the situation across the UK and the rest of Europe carefully.
Level H1 County Hall
Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)
New rules have now come into force restricting the sale of rodenticides (rat and mouse poison).
What the new law means
In 2016 new legislation known as ‘The UK Rodenticide Stewardship Regime’ came into force, limiting the sale of many rodenticides (rat and mouse poisons) to people who are in possession of a certificate indicating that they are competent to use these substances.
What follows is my summary of the situation, but for full details and the technical and legal aspects please refer to the many websites that you will find if you do an internet search using the term rodenticide.
What does the new law say?
This new legislation states that packs of rodenticide which carry the label ‘For professional use only’ can only be sold to a member of the public who is able to produce the relevant certificate of competence. This label is found on most of the larger tubs of poison of the type that poultry keepers, smallholders and similar will probably have been in the habit of buying. Only very small tubs or other small amounts of product, such as mouse poison blocks, do not carry this label. This means that if you need to regularly eradicate rodents, especially rats, you may not be able to obtain the necessary type and quantity of poison that you need.
Why has this law been introduced?
The driving force behind the introduction of this new law was concern about the increasingly high levels of poison found in a number of species of wild birds and mammals, with barn owls being particularly badly affected. The level of poison in these non-target species may be sufficient to kill them directly, or it may simply reduce their fitness and ability to breed, ultimately resulting in death and a decline in overall numbers.
There are two main ways in which non-target species can absorb poison. Mammals such as voles and field mice will take and eat the poisoned bait, whereas in predatory species such as foxes and barn owls or scavengers such as red kites, poisoning can occur indirectly either by them catching poisoned rats and mice that have not yet died or by eating dead rodents. These may be rats and mice that we have deliberately poisoned, or they may be wild animals that have found and eaten the bait as described above. Rodents that have been poisoned may behave erratically and move slowly so they make an easier target for predators than a healthy animal. Bodies of rats that have been poisoned may be found up to 100 metres away from their nests, and so make for easy pickings by scavengers.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who were instrumental in introducing this law (together with the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU)) have warned that if, in the next few years, they do not see a significant reduction in the level of residues from these poisons found in wildlife, that even more stringent measures will be introduced to further limit the use and availability of rodenticides. This means it is up to all of us, farmers, gamekeepers, poultry breeders and others, to use these products more wisely and more frugally.
I need to control rats and mice on my property, how can I buy poison that works?
In the short term, if you are part of a Farm Assured scheme you will be able to continue to buy rodenticides as before. However this is just an interim concession that the NFU were able to negotiate, further information is available from the NFU and other websites. If you are not part of the above scheme, or you do not already hold an appropriate qualification or certificate in the use of rodenticides, you will need to take a relevant course and a test in order to become certified. You will need to show your certificate at the point of purchase.
A good website for details of accepted qualifications and available courses is http://rodentcontrolonfarms.co.uk/. They also provide online training courses which lead to a suitable LANTRA qualification. The course itself is free, but you will need to pay £60 to take the online exam (multiple choice questions) and obtain the certificate. If you prefer you can take a course at a training establishment. For details go to the LANTRA website https://www.lantra.co.uk/ .
I know how to use rat poison so why do I have to take a course?
The main aim of the course is to enable users to develop a strategy for dealing with rodents that reduces the amount of poison used. This in turn reduces the amount that goes into the wider environment including wild animals and birds and occasionally into domestic animals. By using a carefully thought out approach, which includes understanding rodent behaviour, cleaning up and changing the environment to one they are less comfortable with, the use of trapping, and other possible methods of eradication such as dogs, users should see a reduction in pest numbers before starting poisoning and so less poison will be required. The course also teaches the most effective locations and methods of baiting and poisoning.
A further concern is the number of rodents that are now showing resistance to currently available rodenticides. By using less of these products we can help slow down the spread of resistance.