The poultry section of the 2017 Balmoral Show has been cancelled, Rhonda Geary, The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) Operations Director, has announced.

Continued suspension of bird gatherings in Northern Ireland due to avian influenza (bird flu) is the reason behind the cancellation, Geary said.

“With the continued suspension of bird gatherings in Northern Ireland due to avian influenza and following consultation with DAERA, the RUAS has regrettably decided to cancel the Poultry Section of the 2017 Balmoral Show.

“There will however still be classes for pigeons, decorated eggs and shelled eggs.”

Further information regarding entry refunds will be conveyed to those affected by RUAS.

The avian influenza prevention zone announced on January 20, 2017 in Northern Ireland continues to apply until 11:59pm on March 16, 2017.

The zone requires the immediate and compulsory housing of domestic chickens, hens, turkeys and ducks, or when this is not practical, their complete separation from contact with wild birds, according to DAERA.

For farmed geese, gamebirds, and other captive birds, keepers are being advised to take practical steps to keep these birds separate from wild birds.

The zone also means extra biosecurity measures for all poultry and captive birds – to protect them from the risk from wild birds.

New-look Balmoral to ‘attract more visitors from the south’

Meanwhile, the decision to extend Balmoral Show into a fourth day was taken primarily to encourage more southern visitors to the event, according to RUAS Chief Executive, Colin McDonald.

This year will see the show run for four days, instead of three, with Saturday included as the new dimension to the event, he said.

“We are working from a firm base in this regard. Visitor patterns to our Winter Fair event are already confirming a significant increase in visitor numbers from the Republic of Ireland.”

The 2017 Balmoral Show starts on Wednesday, May 10 and continues through until Saturday, May 13.

“We have a full catalogue of livestock competition events scheduled for the final day. This will include the new ‘champion of champions’ classes, which will see the champion animals across the dairy, beef and equine classes coming into the show ring together.”