REYNOLDSBURG — 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 and all other bird exhibits, including at swap meets.
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, including Iowa and Wisconsin, and almost 50 million birds had to be destroyed. In reaction, Ohio announced the ban, June 2.
But if another outbreak develops, the ban could be back in place, cautioned Shelby County Ohio State University (OSU) Extension Director Laura Brown, Thursday.
“Because the ban’s been lifted, (4-H members) can continue with their poultry projects; but OSU extension has suggested they do (an additional) project, because at any time, the ban could be reinstated,” she said. “In the spring is the bird migration. If there’s an outbreak in Ohio or a neighboring state, (poultry) projects won’t be honored at the fair this year.”
During the 2015 Shelby County Fair, children who had been raising poultry were permitted to present posters about their projects. That will not be the case if the ban is reinstated for 2016.
“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,” Dr. Lucinda B. Miller, extension specialist at OSU, wrote Thursday in an email to county extension agents.
On Nov. 18, the World Organization for Animal Health (known as the OIE) issued its final report on the deadly avian flu outbreaks, declaring 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.
Darke County OSU Extension Educator Sam Custer and Dr. Mohamed El-Gazzar, OSU Extension’s poultry veterinarian, will develop 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.”
Jerry Schaffner, secretary of the Shelby County Agricultural Society, which oversees management and rental of the fairgrounds, said lifting the ban will not affect swap meets there.
“We’ve never had any swap meets with chickens or animals,” he said. “It will make a difference for the (Native American) powwow. A guy brings an eagle. He wasn’t able to do that. So (next) year, they could bring the bald eagle back.”
In lifting the ban Thursday, Daniels said it was originally intended to remain in place until April 2016.
“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 4-H 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.
Reach Gary Brock, editor of Civitas Media’s Rural Life Today, at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4. Reach Patricia
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