DEVASTATED farmers have started culling over 10,500 turkeys affected by bird flu in North Yorkshire as appeals go out to members of the public and poultry breeders to report dead birds in the battle to stop it spreading.

Three kilometre and ten kilometre control zones have been put around Sowber Hill Farm, at South Otterington, Northallerton. It is understood the turkey rearing unit at the farm affected supplies Avara Foods based in Brackley, Northamptonshire. A spokesperson said: "We can confirm that Avian Influenza (H5N8) has been confirmed on a turkey farm within the Avara Foods supply chain. All birds on site will be humanely culled.

"Investigations to identify how the virus established itself onsite are ongoing.We have enacted our contingency plan and are working closely with government agencies and our wider suppliers and farming operations to manage this incident effectively and ensure that supply is not disrupted.

"Additional precautionary measures are in place across our agricultural operations but it is important to stress that there is no risk to human health or food safety."

Two rounds of extensive cleaning and disinfecting are due to be carried out at the farm. The National Farmers Union said the outbreak is devastating for breeders. It is the third case across the country since the introduction at the beginning of November by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone to stop the spread.

The disease is brought in by birds arriving to winter in the UK and can be deadly to poultry. Rachael Gillbanks of the NFU said it is incredibly worrying.

She added: "It's the third case of this strain in the UK, poultry farmers are viewing this with real concern. It is very, very serious for their livestock and for them from a business point of view.

"We are working with our members on the ground but we would also appeal to members of the public, we really need people to be extremely vigilant, this avian influenza is coming over with birds coming to spend winter in Britain so if any members of the public see any dead birds we would ask them to report it to DEFRA on 03459335577."