A ban prohibiting bird shows in Ohio was lifted by the state Thursday, but local officials said anyone hoping to show chickens or other birds at the Highland County Fair next year should have a backup plan.
“As of right now, from my understanding, everything is possibly going to happen,” Highland County Extension Director Kathy Bruynis said of next year’s poultry show and sale. “But if another case comes up, even one bird, they will put the ban right back on. Hopefully it won’t happen and the kids will be able to take their chickens to the fair, but state rules override our rules.”
Bruynis received an email Thursday from Lucinda Miller, an Extension specialist, that said: “… This means Ohio can now have live poultry at county and independent fairs, the Ohio State Fair, and all other gatherings of birds for show or for sale, including auctions and swap meets.
“However, while the intention is to allow bird exhibitions to be held next year, an outbreak in Ohio or nearby states may require the reinstatement or even an extension of the ban. Therefore, we are still recommending that youth who enroll in 4-H poultry projects also enroll in another county fair eligible project to be able to participate in the county fair. It is imperative that youth and their families follow strict biosecurity practices. We will post biosecurity information on the Ohio 4-H website poultry resources page at www.ohio4h.org/statewide-programs/animal-sciences/poultry/poultry-resources.”
Jana Holbrook, Highland County Junior Fair coordinator, echoed those sentiments, saying that while Junior Fair members can sale just one breed of animal at the fair, they can show more.
“My comment to all the kids would be to take two projects,” Holbrook said.
She also said that if there is a poultry show at the fair next year, there will be a poultry sale.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture sent a news release out Thursday saying that director David T. Daniels, a Greenfield native, and State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey had rescinded the order prohibiting bird shows in Ohio. They urged poultry and bird owners to remain vigilant and cautious in order to protect the health of their flocks during migration seasons.
The order, issued on June 2, 2015, was originally intended to remain in place until April 2016. Throughout the nationwide outbreak, the department worked closely with Ohio’s poultry producers and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to provide training and to closely monitor the health of poultry in the state, a news release said.
“Ohio is home to more than 50 million domestic birds, which makes our state particularly vulnerable to an outbreak. Thankfully, the disease never took hold here. I believe this is a justification of the steps taken by our producers and exhibitors to mitigate the risk of an outbreak,” Daniels said in the news release.
The avian flu is an extremely contagious virus that primarily affects domestic poultry and is likely spread by wild, migrating birds. The USDA first confirmed the virus in the U.S. beginning in late 2014. While there were no confirmed cases of the disease in Ohio, throughout the spring and summer of 2015 more than 48 million birds nationally were affected. On Nov. 18, the World Organization for Animal Health, known as the OIE, issued its final report on the avian flu outbreaks which declared that the outbreaks in all affected states are now final, closed, and resolved. This makes the United States free of avian influenza for the time being, according to the news release said.
One of the ways avian influenza spreads is by direct contact with contaminated materials coming from other infected birds. Exhibitions, auctions and swap meets where birds are co‐mingling pose a high risk of unintentionally spreading disease. While the intention is to allow bird exhibitions to be held next year, an outbreak in Ohio or nearby states may require the reinstatement or even an extension of the ban, the news release said.
On Friday, Daniels released a statement that said, “I would like to extend a sincere thank you to OSU Extension and the youth exhibitors for their understanding and to their advisers for turning this unfortunate outbreak into an important educational moment. As I travelled around the state this summer, I was overwhelmed with the maturity and understanding of the disappointed but supportive young people I spoke with who were unable to bring their poultry projects to the fair. It’s a real testament to the strength and importance our 4-H and FFA programs in Ohio.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.