BVPA Backyard Poultry Biosecurity Advice – Dec 22

Why is it important to prevent Avian Influenza?

Avian Influenza (AI) or “bird flu” is a highly contagious and deadly disease that affects a wide range of species including poultry, waterfowl, gamebirds, birds of prey, seabirds and in very rare cases certain mammals, including humans. Avian Influenza can occur as High Pathogenicity (HPAI) and Low Pathogenicity (LPAI) forms. The currently circulating strain is the HPAI form and a very high percentage of infected birds, including pet poultry, die from the disease. Those that don’t still suffer with ill health from the disease and can spread the virus and so require humane culling and safe disposal. Therefore, minimising the spread of AI nationwide is vital to protect bird health and welfare, and public health.

How is Avian Influenza spread?

The virus is very infectious – only a small amount of virus causes severe disease in birds and often is fatal! AI is spread through contact with infected birds or the faeces, feathers or bodily fluids from infected birds. Infected wild birds shed large amounts of virus in their faeces and can contaminate the housing, bedding, feed and water of pet and commercial poultry, in so spreading the disease.  Rodents, people and physical objects can also carry viruses between birds, for example on their fur, hands or shoes, and transfer infection without knowing it. Birds can become infected with the virus when pecking food, contaminated surfaces and water, or eating bird carcases (e.g. birds of prey and scavenging species). The longer infected birds are alive and the more birds that become infected the more viruses they shed into the environment and the greater the risk of other birds catching AI.

Biosecurity – keeping your birds’ environment clean and free from infectious material is the most effective way to prevent them from catching Avian Influenza.

 Staying clean

 AI viruses can be destroyed by disinfectants which makes cleansing and disinfection (C&D) very effective at reducing the risk of disease. Prioritise C&D of equipment and surfaces that your birds come in to contact with such as feeders, drinkers and their housing. You can avoid carrying viruses into their environment by using clean poultry house specific footwear that is disinfected before and after each use. Wellington boots are ideal as they can be washed with a hose, scrubbed with a brush to remove muck then disinfected with a foot dip or spray before and after entry into the birds’ enclosure. Foot dips should have a lid, be made of opaque plastic to stop UV light inactivating the product and be replenished when dirty. Take care around small children and pets as disinfectants can be harmful.  Please do not enter the bird areas wearing footwear that has been used for other purposes, e.g. walking the dog, since it might be contaminated.  Cross contamination of clean items by dirty ones can be prevented being keeping clean and dirty apart.

Muck, soil and dirt stop disinfectants working to their full potential therefore it is essential to remove all gross contamination before disinfecting items. Disinfectants also take time to work effectively so please check the contact time on the product instruction and allow sufficient time before rinsing off disinfectants from equipment and housing. Use DEFRA approved disinfectants that have been proven to destroy AI viruses at the correct dilution. A full list is available at

Preventing contact with infected animals

All types of wild birds can infect your poultry therefore it is necessary to avoid all contact between your birds and wildlife. When a housing order is declared it is essential that all captive birds and poultry are kept under secure cover (housed) for their own protection – this includes pet, hobby and backyard flocks.

Wild birds and rodents are attracted to the food and water available in poultry enclosures:

  • Ensure your poultry housing is wild bird and rodent proof by using appropriate materials. Impermeable roofing e.g. boarding, corrugated roofing sheets or tarpaulins over the bird enclosure is most effective at preventing wild bird droppings and feathers from infecting your birds. A solid base (e.g. concrete or paving slabs) or heavy gauge, small diameter wire mesh buried beneath the floor can prevent access by rodents burrowing in. However, if using solid flooring provision of deep bedding is important to protect foot health and provide extra enrichment for your birds.
  • Cleaning up feed spillages, bird feathers and removing any dead rodents or birds can reduce the risk of your birds being exposed to infectious material , but please use personal protective equipment, e.g. disposable gloves, when handling dead animals, C&D any equipment used then wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Fence off ponds and streams and avoid feeding wild birds near to your own birds to avoid contact between domestic and wild birds which might spread AI.

Ducks and geese may show little or no disease signs, and are known to be reservoirs and spreaders  of AI viruses:

  • Waterfowl must be housed separately from chickens, turkeys and other birds.
  • Avoid direct contact between bird types in adjacent pens as netting and wire fences do not stop the spread of AI.

Safe feed, water and bedding

  • Prevent wildlife from contaminating the feed, water and bedding for your birds.
  • Feed should be stored in lidded metal containers to protect it from rodents and wild birds.
  • Drinkers and feeders should be situated under cover to prevent contamination by wild bird droppings.
  • Bedding should be stored in a clean, dry area away from wildlife until needed e.g. in a secure shed or garage.

Record keeping

In the event of an outbreak of Avian Influenza it is essential to track down any possible contacts as quickly as possible to limit onward spread. Good record keeping makes this much easier. Please record all of the following:

  • The names, contact details and dates of their visit of all visitors to the bird areas
  • The movement of all birds and hatching eggs onto or off your premises including the dates of movements as well as where they came from or are going to.
  • When and where any table eggs have moved off the premises if you know the person. If you use an honesty box, record the number of eggs you put in the box and the date you put them there.
  • The dates of any deaths in your flock and where their bodies were disposed of. Please note poultry are classified as fallen stock and therefore cannot be buried or double bagged and placed in the bin. They must be disposed of by an approved route. Please contact your local vet who may be able to provide that service.
  • When and where used litter, manure or other animal waste has moved off the premises.
  • Please note that if your premises is located within a specific disease control zone around a confirmed outbreak movements of live birds, hatching eggs and manure etc are prohibited unless under a licence issued by APHA.

Stay alert

Keeping a close eye on your birds is the best way to recognise any illnesses that might affect their health and welfare. Avian Influenza can cause a range of clinical signs including one or more of the following:

Flock signs – Signs in birds sharing housing

  1. Unresponsive, quiet birds, unwell, don’t want to come out and engage as usual. Don’t come for treats as usual. Sitting around, fluffed up. They may rally temporarily, but will soon tire.
  2. Huddling with each other or against coop furniture/equipment like in nests or around drinkers.
  3. Unexpected deaths, with other birds also looking unwell.

Bird signs typical with notifiable disease:

  1. Neurological signs – e.g. shaking, twitching, struggling to balance or just falling asleep & head nodding.
  2. Twisted heads or necks leaving birds looking up at the sky or sideways.
  3. Swollen, bruised appearance to heads. Facial feathers may stick up in swollen areas.
  4. Weak, unable to remain standing for long. Look drunk and may struggle to control their wings.
  5. Shivering, actually tremors as birds don’t shiver when they are cold like we do.
  6. Bruising or blood spots of the leg, neck or chest. Check in between the feathers.

Bird signs typical with common diseases in hens:

Individual birds with these symptoms, in an otherwise well flock are unlikely to be affected by highly pathogenic Avian Influenza. However, these signs are very suspicious of Avian Influenza when combined with those previously mentioned and/or when multiple birds are suddenly affected all at once:

  1. Coughing sneezing or gaping, esp. in birds recently wormed for gapeworm
  2. Focal facial swelling e.g. around the eyes.
  3. Reduction in laying
  4. Lethargy
  5. Diarrhoea – abnormally coloured or excessively watery faeces

Please contact your vet if you have any concerns about the health of your birds and call the APHA if you suspect they may have Avian Influenza.

Tom Woolacott

Tom Woolacott BVetMed PGDipVCP MRCVS

Tom graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2020 and joined Synergy full time after completing the RVC/Synergy Farm Health internship. Tom is interested in all aspects of farm animal practice and is Somerset born and bred therefore enjoys working in an area ge knows and loves.


Imogen Rogers BVetMed PGDip MRCVS

Imogen graduated in 2019, and then completed the well established RVC/Synergy Farm Health internship. Imogen has a particular interest in sheep medicine, smallholder education and youngstock.

Louise Silk

Louise Silk MA VetMB MRCVS

Louise graduated in 2007 and has spent her whole career working in farm animal practice in Dorset and Wiltshire. Louise has a particular interest in flock health and suckler herd production. Louise enjoys delivering farmer training as well as facilitating discussion group meetings, particularly for the suckler herds of Salisbury plain.


Graeme McPherson BVSc DBR MRCVS

Graeme graduated in 1994 and worked in his native Australia before moving to the UK as a farm animal vet, first in Oxfordshire and now at Synergy Farm Health. Graeme is a qualified AHDB mastitis control plan deliverer and completed his Diploma in Bovine Reproduction in 2020. Graeme has varied clinical interests relating to dairy herd health and productivity, as well as considerable experience in camelid medicine.  Graeme is the North Regional Lead vet and a shareholder in the practice. 


Rachel Hayton BSc (Vet Sci) BVM&S Cert CHP MRCVS

Advanced Practitioner in Cattle Health and Production

Rachel graduated in 1993 and obtained her Certificate in Cattle Health and Production in 1998.  Rachel joined Southfield Veterinary Centre in 1995 which became Synergy Farm Health in 2009.   Rachel focuses on performing routine fertility visits for dairy clients, looking after all aspects of herd health.  Rachel is also one of Synergy’s lead mastitis vets, enjoying carrying out mastitis investigations into challenging situations on farm.  She is a trained AHDB Mastitis Control Plan deliverer.  Rachel became a shareholder in the practice in 2018.


Alastair Hayton BVMS DCHP MRCVS

RCVS Recognised Specialist in Cattle Health and Production


Alastair qualified in 1993 and has worked in farm animal practice in the south west throughout his career.  Alastair gained the RCVS Diploma in Cattle Health and Production in 2003 and became an RCVS specialist in 2011. He is a member of the Nottingham University Dairy Herd Health Group and in 2015 was voted Farmers Weekly Farm Advisor of the Year.  Alastair’s areas of particular interest include nutrition, mastitis, camelid medicine and organic dairy production. Alastair performs a large amount of consultancy work throughout the veterinary and food production sectors, including expert witness legal work.  Alastair is the veterinary consultant to one of the UK’s largest supermarket milk pools. 
Alastair is heavily involved in the research and development of the novel Enferplex bTB test through Surefarm Ltd.

Charlotte Debbaut DVM MRCVS

Charlotte qualified in 2012 in her native Belgium and has spent most of her career working in various farm animal practices across the UK. Charlotte joined Synergy Farm Health in 2020. She is especially interested in dairy cow medicine, including youngstock health and productivity. Charlotte is also a CowSignals Master trainer.


Tom Angel BVetMed MRCVS

Tom graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2019 and joined Synergy full time after completing the RVC/Synergy Farm Health internship. In 2022, Tom started studying for the European Diploma in Bovine Health Management and a Masters of Veterinary Medicine in association with the RVC, where his time is split between clinical work, research, and teaching undergraduate students. Tom is interested in all aspects of farm animal practice, but his particular areas of interest and research are in dairy transition management and calf health. 


Ed Powell-Jackson MA VetMB MRCVS

Ed qualified in 2006 and has spent his whole career working in farm animal practice at Synergy Farm Health, and prior to that at Kingfisher Veterinary Practice. Ed is interested in all aspects of bovine health, in particular infectious disease control and robotic dairy units, and provides veterinary care to some of the highest performing robotic dairy herds in the UK.  Ed runs Synergy’s discussion group for dairy farmers on the Blackdown Hills and is also a qualified AHDB mastitis control plan deliverer.  Ed became a shareholder in the practice in 2013.  In addition to his clinical work Ed has various other senior roles at Synergy, including spending a number of years as west regional lead, whilst now having responsibilities in finance and leading the marketing of the practice.


Tom Shardlow BVSc MRCVS

Tom graduated in 2007 and has spent the majority of his career working in farm animal practice in Dorset. Tom is particularly interested in youngstock health and improving dairy heifer performance, and as the leader of our Youngstock team advises farmers on building design, preventive healthcare and nutrition across the practice. Tom became a shareholder in the practice in 2018.



Esme qualified in 2009 and has worked in farm animal practice throughout her career, both in the UK and in New Zealand.  Esme has particular interests in bovine fertility and completed the prestigious Diploma in Bovine Reproduction in 2020.  She is also interested in dairy youngstock and calf rearing and delivers consultancy in this area to a number of clients.  Esme became a shareholder in the practice in 2019.


Alasdair Moffett BVMS MSc MRCVS

Alasdair qualified in 2008 and has worked in farm animal veterinary practices within the UK, and in New Zealand. He recently completed a diploma in International Animal Health, where he focused on disease costing and modeling (particularly bovine TB) and a ‘One Health’ approach to antimicrobial resistance. Alasdair is particularly motivated by striving to improve efficiency in the medium sized family dairy enterprises of the practice. Alasdair became a shareholder in the practice in 2019.


Gareth Foden BVetMed Cert AVP MRCVS

Gareth qualified in 2011 and is interested in a wide range of farm animal veterinary work particularly cattle lameness, fertility and surgery, and likes the practical approach to health planning on farm. Gareth is a key member of the Cattle Lameness Academy team and continues to develop a specialism in this area.  Gareth is the West region lead vet and became a shareholder in the practice in 2019.

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Clare Eames BVSc MRCVS

Clare qualified in 2001 and has had a varied career working in farm animal practice, as a consultant for ADAS and as a technical vet for Pfizer Animal Health.  Clare is particularly interested in beef and small ruminants and enjoys teaching the beef module of the RVC student rotation.

Keith Cutler

Keith Cutler BSc BVSc DipECBHM MRCVS

RCVS Recognised Specialist in Cattle Health and Production

Keith graduated in 1990 and joined Synergy Farm Health in 2020, having worked in the Salisbury area for over 25 years running the farm animal division of Endell Veterinary Group. Keith has varied clinical interests which include both dairy and suckler herd management, fertility, lameness and infectious disease control in cattle. Keith is a Diplomate of the European College of Bovine Health Management and a Director of CHeCS (Cattle Health Certification Standards) who oversee all licensed cattle health schemes in the UK.

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Tom qualified in 2011 and has spent his whole career working in farm animal practice in Somerset. He is the son of one of Synergy’s clients near Taunton and consequently has a deep understanding of both dairy farming and the wider agricultural industry.  Tom is interested in all areas of livestock productivity and herd health.

Mike Kerby


Advanced Practitioner in Bovine Reproduction

Mike qualified from Bristol in 1985 and has been in farm animal practice in the south west ever since. Mike was a partner at Delaware Veterinary Group in Castle Cary for 16 years before joining Synergy Farm Health in 2020. Mike is an honorary lecturer at Liverpool University and sits on the advisory board at Surrey University Vet School. He holds the prestigious Diploma in Bovine Reproduction from Liverpool University and has extensive experience of dairy herd health. He also has a particular enthusiasm for bovine surgery and developing the next generation of cattle vets.

Martijn 't Hoen

Martijn’t Hoen DVM CertAVP MRCVS

Martijn qualified in 2008. His entire career has been focused on farm animals, working in practices in his native Netherlands before moving to the UK in 2011. Martijn joined Synergy in 2020. Martijn is experienced in all aspect of cattle and camelid veterinary work, including bull fertility examinations and delivering AI training for farmers. He is also a CowSignals  Master trainer.

Nim Panesar

Nim Panesar BVetMed MRCVS

Nim graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2018 and spent three years working in predominantly dairy practice on the North Devon/Cornwall border. She has recently relocated to the Salisbury area to join Synergy’s expanding East team, and also to be closer to family in Berkshire. Her main clinical interest is fertility work and working to improve herd reproductive performance. She also enjoys surgical cases.  Nim is currently working towards the CertAVP in Cattle Health.

Andrew Davies

Andrew Davies BVetMed CertCHP FRCVS

Senior Director

Andrew is Senior Director of Synergy Farm Health having been Managing Director since inception in 2009 until November 2021.

His responsibilities include exploring opportunities for Business Development, working closely with the Marketing team, being involved in Medicines procurement and generally advising Senior Management. 

He is very motivated by people development and education and has been heavily involved with the development of our Internship programme and the Farm Animal Teaching rotation for final year veterinary students with the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.

Andrew is POV (Principal Official Veterinarian) of Farmcare West Ltd; on the medicines procurement Team for XLVets UK Ltd; Non-Executive Director for VDS (Veterinary Defence Society) and a Governor at Kingston Maurward College, Dorchester.

Andrew was awarded the prestigious Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (FRCVS) in 2020 for meritorious contributions to the Veterinary Profession.

Clinically he is interested in proactive health planning programmes and calf health. He has an active interest in Responsible Use of Medicines and the steps we can take in veterinary practice in minimising any impact on AMR (anti-microbial resistance).

He received the UK Food & Farming Industry Animal Health Adviser of the year award in 2019.

In his spare time, he is a keen follower of both rugby union and football – being a passionate Welshman avidly following the national rugby team but also a lifelong supporter, for his sins, of Swansea City AFC! He is a member of a local mixed voice Choir, enjoys walking the Dorset coast and countryside with his family and their dog.

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Tom Warboys BVetMed PGDipVCP MRCVS

Tom graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2017 and joined Synergy full time after completing the RVC/Synergy Farm Health internship. His particular interests include suckler production, preventative health and sustainability. Tom is the editor of our beef newsletter and is studying for his Masters in Sustainable and Efficient production alongside clinical work. He is also part of the RVC teaching team. 

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Pete O’Malley MA VetMB PGCertVetEd FHEA MRCVS

Pete has worked in farm animal practice in the south west since 2012, providing services to a large range of clients across the Somerset region during that time. Pete’s interests lie in optimising animal health and productivity in dairy herds through data driven decision making and training. His passion for education includes that of clients and students alike.

He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and is now studying for his Post Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Education and certificate in advanced veterinary practice. Pete leads a clinical teaching rotation at Synergy for Royal Veterinary College students and is a shareholder of the business.


Charlotte Mouland BVSc PGDipVCP MRCVS

Charlotte graduated from the University of Bristol in 2015 and joined Synergy as an RVC intern in 2016 after spending a calving season in New Zealand. Whilst enjoying all aspects of farm animal practice, Charlotte is particularly interested in flock health planning and works with a wide range of sheep flocks across the practice. She is also undertaking a post-graduate certificate in sheep health and production.



RCVS Recognised Specialist in Cattle Health and Production

Managing Director

Jon Reader qualified in 1997 and has been a farm animal vet in Somerset ever since. In 2010 Jon gained the RCVS Diploma in Cattle Health and Production and in 2013 was runner up as Farmers Weekly Farm Advisor of the Year. Jon is a member of the Nottingham Dairy Herd Health Group as well as being a member of the UK Dairy Cattle Mobility Steering Group. Jon was awarded the prestigious RCVS Fellowship in 2020 for his meritorious contributions to clinical practice. Jon has a particular interest in foot trimming, working with para professionals and using technology to assist in the recording and analysis of mobility and lameness records.

Jon is our Managing Director, and part of the senior management team.  He has specific responsibility for the financial management of the business.


Jo Masters Cert Ed RVN Operations Director

After a varied career in veterinary nursing, teaching, examining and practice management Jo joined Synergy Farm Health in 2012 when the farm animal service of Langport Veterinary Centre also transferred. Jo’s extensive experience of all sectors of veterinary practice, coupled with her farming background enables her to head our operational logistics working with our teams of clinicians and support staff to organise and implement resources, facilities, and protocols. Working with the Operations Manager Jo is responsible for staff employment and HR management as well as overseeing our teams of staff both in and out of the practice. Working with the Operational team Jo implements plans, projects and new initiatives as well as being responsible for elements of practice representation and client liaison.  Jo describes her role as ‘herding cats’ and is proud to be the first female Director of Synergy Farm Health.


Pete Siviter BVetMed MRCVS

Pete qualified in 2013 and has been based in Dorset with Synergy Farm Health ever since.  Pete has particular enthusiasm for on-farm discussions about herd health and preventative medicine, as well as enjoying emergency “fire brigade” work.  Pete also has an interest in small holdings and pigs, both domestic and commercial. 



Nicky qualified in 2012 and has spent her entire career working in farm animal practice, both in the UK and New Zealand. In 2018 she spent a year completing further study in sheep health and production at Nottingham University. Nicky enjoys improving flock health and productivity and joined Synergy in 2021 to further enhance our sheep team.

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Claire Rudd BVetMed MRCVS

Claire qualified in 2005, and has worked in Dorset for the majority of her career.  Her main clinical focus is cattle medicine, and she has particular interests in fertility and infectious disease control. 


Andre Northey DrMVet MRCVS

Andre graduated in 2005 in his native Germany, before joining Synergy Farm Health in 2012.  Andre is especially interested in bovine surgery and set up our Embryo Collection and Transfer service for cattle and alpacas. In 2020 Andre completed the well regarded Cow Signals training.  Andre delivers our four day AI course for farmers and herdsmen, as well as teaching final year students from the Royal Veterinary College. 

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Bella Lowis MA VetMB MRCVS

Bella graduated in 2010 and has spent the majority of her career working in Dorset, joining Synergy Farm Health in 2019.  Bella is experienced in all farm animal clinical procedures and has a particular interest in youngstock. 

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Emily Gascoigne MA VetMB DipECSRHM MRCVS
RCVS Recognised Specialist in Sheep Health and Production

Emily graduated in 2012 and has worked at Synergy Farm Health throughout her career. Whilst enthusiastic about all aspects of farm animal practice, Emily has a special interest is sheep and goat production, with particular emphasis on flock health planning, reducing production losses and infectious disease control. Emily gained the European Diploma in Small Ruminant Health Management in 2018 and is an RCVS Recognised Specialist in Sheep Health and Production.  Emily is the Regional Vet Lead for our Central Area and a shareholder in the practice.


Sam Cottam BVSc MSc MRCVS

Sam graduated in 2015 and has worked in several farm animal practices in the south west before joining Synergy Farm Health.  Sam has a particular interest in dairy cow nutrition and has been closely involved in the development of our nutritional advice service.  


Tom Clarke BVSc MRCVS
Clinical Director

Tom graduated in 2002 and has spent his whole career in farm animal practice, including several years working in New Zealand.  Tom has a particular interest in dairy herd health and productivity, in both intensive high yielding herds as well as grass based block calving units.  Tom is also one of our in house mastitis specialists.  As an AHDB mastitis plan deliverer Tom performs mastitis investigations into challenging situations on farm, specialising in dynamic testing of milking parlours.  Tom became a shareholder in the practice in 2013 and spent a number of years as East regional lead vet, before becoming Clinical Director in 2019. 

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Josie Burridge BVM&S MRCVS

Josie graduated in 2015 and joined Synergy Farm Health in 2019.  Josie has a particular interest in dairy herd health and productivity and especially youngstock.


Ben Barber BVetMed MRCVS

Ben qualified in 2014. Ben’s primary interests lie in beef cattle, both suckler herds but also calf rearers and finishers, and he spends a considerable amount of his time delivering consultancy work to the UK’s largest beef integration chain. Ben also delivers routine work to a number of dairy herds where he enjoys improving herd performance and productivity. Ben is actively engaged with the teaching of university students at Synergy and has also been part of teaching projects abroad in aid of charity.  Ben became a shareholder in the practice in 2020.