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Questions on the role of free range chooks in -

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TONY EASTLEY: The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries says chickens on a second farm near Young have been infected with avian influenza.

It's prompted fear among egg farmers that an outbreak detected last week hasn't been properly contained.

Some producers are pointing the finger at free range eggs farms, saying they increase the risk of outbreaks.

Will Ockenden reports.

WILL OCKENDEN: When avian influenza was discovered on a New South Wales poultry farm last week authorities stepped in, culling all 400,000 birds on the farm. It was hoped that would stop it spreading further, but the strategy appears to have failed.

IAN ROTH: We have detected avian influenza on a second property.

WILL OCKENDEN: The New South Wales chief vet is Ian Roth.

IAN ROTH: We think they are linked. We've still got work to do on how that linkage may have occurred. The preliminary sort of work indicates that the virus off the first and second farm are the same.

WILL OCKENDEN: The chooks are infected with the H7 strain of avian influenza, not the H5N1 strain which can kill humans.

IAN ROTH: Getting a second farm is not what we wanted, but I think it's probably explainable how this one happened. But I guess it does put another perspective on the outbreak.

WILL OCKENDEN: Farmers are worried the outbreak will keep spreading.

BEDE BURKE: As a farmer it's terribly nerve wracking.

WILL OCKENDEN: Bede Burke is an egg farmer near Tamworth and the current chair of the egg committee of the lobby group New South Wales Farmers. He says he's beefing up his farm's bio-security.

BEDE BURKE: Everything is going to be monitored and documented. People are signing declarations that they haven't been around poultry.

WILL OCKENDEN: Parts of the egg industry are pointing the finger at free range egg production.

The second infected property is understood to have produced caged eggs, but the first had a mix of both cages and free range.

Bede Burke says because the chickens spend more time outdoors, they're more likely to encounter wild birds like ducks which pass on disease.

BEDE BURKE: Seven or eight years ago free range was 5 per cent of the national flock, today it's in the high 30s. So with this incredible growth in free range we've also increased our risk and exposure.

WILL OCKENDEN: It's a view that's also held by the Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

BARNABY JOYCE: What we see is you've got the avian flu in ducks and when the ducks have contact with the birds outside in the free range form it brings the disease into the shed. And if we want to move to just free range birds, this is going to be a problem that's going to re-occur and re-occur and re-occur.

WILL OCKENDEN: But egg producer Meg Parkinson from Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia says there's not enough evidence to draw a link between the rise in free range egg production and more disease outbreaks.

MEG PARKINSON: We don't know what caused this outbreak for a start. And on the general issue, we don't know whether these diseases are being spread on the wind or whether they're being spread by transfer on people's clothes.

WILL OCKENDEN: She says she'd like the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries to look into it as it puts together its report on the New South Wales outbreak.

MEG PARKINSON: The problem is that this disease seems to be accelerating in Australia. We have to look at why.

WILL OCKENDEN: Why don't you think the science has been done on this in the past?

MEG PARKINSON: I don't know but, you know, let's do something about it now.

TONY EASTLEY: Meg Parkinson from Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia, ending Will Ockenden's report.