The order from the Ohio Department of Agriculture banning all bird shows in the state was lifted Thursday.
Put in place more than seven months ago by Director David Daniels in reaction to the outbreak across the United States of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (avian flu) that was killing poultry by the millions, the order resulted in the cancellation of all county fair poultry shows this past summer as well as the Ohio State Fair poultry shows.
There were no reports of the avian flu in Ohio since the outbreak was first reported on the West Coast Dec. 19, 2014. The disease then spread rapidly to Midwest states such as Iowa and Wisconsin, and almost 50 million birds had to be destroyed. In reaction, the state of Ohio announced the ban June 2.
“The lifting of the poultry ban means a couple things for the 4-H program,” said Laryssa Hook, 4-H youth development educator for the OSU Extension in Delaware County. “For our club members that take poultry projects, there is the possibility that they will be able to exhibit their birds at the 2016 county fair. We also conduct school enrichment programming with the ChickQuest program, that teaches life cycle as a third-grade science standard. This has also been on hold, as classrooms could not hatch eggs under the ban.”
But if another outbreak develops, the ban could be back in place, cautioned Darke County OSU Extension Educator Sam Custer Thursday. “The industry is just so large here in Ohio, I don’t think the state would hesitate to put the ban in place again if there was another outbreak.”
“We are excited that these programs will be able to return to their full functioning, but we also recognize that at any point in 2016 the ban could go back in place if the virus is found in the states,” Hook said. “I think our fair committees will be looking at creating two options for the 2016 rules, so that they will be better prepared if the ban is put back in place.”
On Nov. 18, the World Organization for Animal Health (known as the OIE) issued its final report on the deadly avian flu outbreaks which declared that the outbreaks in all affected states are now final, closed, and resolved. This now makes the United States free of avian influenza for the time being.
But Custer said Ohio poultry producers and exhibitors still need to take precautions.
To that end, he and Dr. Mohamed El-Gazzar, Ohio State University Extension’s poultry veterinarian, will be developing a bio-hazard program with information on detection and prevention of avian flu.
“I met with Dr. El-Gazzar Tuesday night and we will be distributing through all of the County Extension offices some bio-security pamphlets and recommendations for backyard flocks, junior fair exhibitors, doing this in the next couple of weeks, making sure that people are well aware of what they need to do to protect their birds,” Custer said.
“We don’t have an outbreak currently, but if you see something suspicious, we will have numbers available for people to call immediately. Our goal is to get these (pamphlets and recommendations) out to any place where people will be buying poultry — poultry suppliers, feed stores and so on — so that not only junior fair members but anyone purchasing birds from any supplier can have access to the bio-security information.”
Custer said he supported the decision to ban all Ohio bird shows.
“We are so populated with poultry that if there was an outbreak in our area it would be hard to keep it going from barn to barn we are so close,” he said of poultry farms in the Darke County-Mercer County area, one of the nation’s largest egg producing regions. “It would be difficult to stop.”
Custer also supports the timing of the state lifting the order Thursday. “It is important for the young people, the young exhibitors wanting to show their birds.” He said many junior exhibitors would now be starting the process of showing their poultry at the fairs next year.
“I just saw that the Paulding County Junior Fair members can order their turkeys now through Cooper’s. Their fair is mid-June, so they will be able to pick up their turkeys in the next three weeks,” Custer pointed out.
In lifting the ban Thursday, Daniels said it was originally intended to remain in place until April 2016. In the announcement, Daniels said that 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.
“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 traveled 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 4H and FFA programs in Ohio,” said Daniels in the news release.
Ohio is the second largest egg producer in the country and home to 28 million laying chickens, 12 million broilers, 8.5 million pullets and 2 million turkeys. Ohio’s egg, chicken and turkey farms create more than 14,600 jobs and contribute $2.3 billion to the state’s economy.
Gary Brock is editor of Civitas Media’s Rural Life Today and can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.