ODA snuffs live bird projects

In past years it was a common sight to see 4-H Club members proudly showing chickens and turkeys at local fairs, like Maria Burger, shown here in 2013 at the Delaware County Fair. This year the poultry barns at fairs statewide will be empty, due to an Ohio Department of Agriculture ban on poultry exhibitions and projects to help protect Ohio’s poultry industry from the avian flu. The ban includes the Hartford Independent Fair, the Delaware County Fair, the Ohio State Fair, and all other gatherings of birds for show or for sale, including auctions and swap meets.

All live bird exhibitions at Ohio’s fairs during 2015 have been cancelled, including at the Hartford Independent Fair and the Delaware County Fair.

A press release from the Ohio Department of Agriculture states that the ban has been initiated to help protect Ohio’s $2.3 billion poultry industry from the avian flu that has negatively impacted other poultry-producing states.

The ban includes county and independent fairs, the Ohio State Fair, and all other gatherings of birds for show or for sale, including auctions and swap meets. Similar bans have been enacted in other poultry states. So far, Ohio is virus-free and the move is intended to continue that status.

Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David T. Daniels said in the press release that the bird exhibition ban was a difficult decision because it means young people can’t show their birds at fairs, but it’s in the best interest of an industry.

“The right move isn’t always the easy move, but this is the right move, especially when you see just how devastating the virus has been to other big poultry states like Iowa and Minnesota,” Daniels wrote. “Ohioans need to do all we can to ensure that we protect our industry.”

Big Walnut High School Ag Science teacher and BW/DACC FFA Advisor Jeff Stimmell said the main reason for banning the exhibition of live birds at fairs stems from the economic importance that the poultry and egg industry has in Ohio, the number two egg producing state in the nation behind Iowa.

“Iowa has already been affected by the avian flu, which has caused prices to begin increasing nationwide,” Stimmell said. “Traditionally, if one bird in a flock is found to have the flu, the whole flock is destroyed.”

Stimmell said the Ohio Department of Agriculture is working with county and independent fair boards to identify options that will keep youth who are already raising poultry for the 2015 fair season from losing their opportunity to have a fair project. The recommendations include amending the deadlines for students to switch projects and allowing the use of props or photos in place of live birds

“The Ohio State University Extension service is working on alternative projects for students,” Stimmell said. “It’s important to take into consideration that students are gaining knowledge of animal systems through this situation. I’m going to encourage my students who are working with poultry and had hoped to exhibit their projects at the fair to take advantage of alternative opportunities such as AgriScience Fair Research projects to learn about poultry through research.

“I’m not sure of the impact on 4-H Club members at Big Walnut because I do not have all of them in class,” Stimmell added. “But we have five of the 41 students in my program who had poultry projects who will be impacted by this.”

Information on biosecurity from USDA APHIS for backyard flocks can be found at < healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov > or by visiting < ohioagriculture.gov >.