Avian Influenza spreads to Farm Pride Foods’ free-range egg farm in regional Victoria

Avian Influenza spreads to Farm Pride Foods’ free-range egg farm in regional Victoria

Photo via Farm Pride Eggs Facebook

An outbreak of Avian Influenza (AI) detected last month in the Victorian town of Meredith, west of Melbourne, has spread to an egg farm operated by Farm Pride Foods (ASX: FRM) affecting 8 per cent of its production capacity.

The Melbourne-based Farm Pride Foods says it is working with the Victorian Department of Agriculture (Vic Ag) in conducting “thorough hen health assessments” after the disease was detected yesterday following two days of testing.

“Results received from extensive testing conducted on 1 June 2024 indicated that hens in all sheds on the Lethbridge Aviary and Lethbridge Rocks sites were negative for AI,” says the company. 

However, subsequent testing on 2 June found that free range hens at the Lethbridge Aviary site, south of Meredith, were positive for the H7N3 strain. Farm Pride Foods was informed of the positive test late yesterday afternoon.

The company says it is the same strain found on an egg farm at Meredith on 22 May, which triggered an investigation by Vic Ag and led to a second outbreak of the H7N9 strain being discovered two days later on another farm further south-west at Terang.

Vic Ag says the current strains detected are not the H5 strain which is currently causing concern globally.

It also says the farm outbreaks have no connection to a case of H5N1 avian influenza found in a person who recently returned from travel overseas.

Farm Pride Foods says the total number of livestock at its Lethbridge Aviary site comprises about 80,000 free range hens, which accounts for about 8 per cent of the company’s total production capacity.

“The company will seek compensation from the Emergency Animal Disease Compensation Scheme arising from the disposal of these birds,” says Farm Pride Foods.

“The hens at the Lethbridge Rocks site tested negative for AI on 1 June and 2 June 2024.

“This site is currently being treated as separate to the Lethbridge Aviary site and will continue to be monitored in conjunction with VicAg.”

Farm Pride has another separate site in the Lethbridge area with about 40,000 free range hens and that site is also subject to monitoring and testing.

“All of the company’s operations outside the Lethbridge area continue to operate as normal,” the company says.

The company’s shares were placed in a trading halt on 31 May ahead of today’s announcement.

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