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.
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 announced the ban June 2.
The news was welcomed by OSU Extension agents in the Ohio Valley, particularly in Meigs and Gallia counties.
“We are excited to be able to have poultry again at the 2016 Meigs County Fair. Our exhibitors and supporters did an outstanding job dealing with the challenges of the ban in 2015 and we hope that they will continue to put what they have learned about biosecurity and disease spread to good use to help prevent issues from reoccurring,” said Michelle Stumbo, 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator and director for Meigs County. “We are still recommending that youth take a non-poultry project in 2016 in case the ban would need to be reinstated. For right now, however, we are planning to have an outstanding Poultry Show in 2016,” Stumbo said.
Jeff Moore, Gallia County’s agriculture and natural resources educator, agreed.
“We realize that, at any point, if (the state health department) starts seeing cases again that the shows will be banned,” he said. “We look forward to having (poultry shows) back. A lot of kids like to show their poultry.”
Along those lines, if another outbreak develops, the ban could be back in place, cautioned Darke County OSU Extension Educator Sam Custer.
“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.”
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 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.
Moore concurred that the timing of the news was good for Ohio agricultural groups, especially 4-H.
“The 4-H clubs are starting to get active again and the kids begin selecting their projects after Jan. 1,” he said. “This was good timing.”
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.