Locals react to ban: Deadline extended for 4-H poultry families to register IDs for different species to show at the fair
WILLMAR -- Since at least February, 4-H members enrolled in the poultry program have been babying their baby chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and guineas to make sure they're mature enough for the summertime county fairs and the State Fair in Sept...
WILLMAR –– Since at least February, 4-H members enrolled in the poultry program have been babying their baby chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and guineas to make sure they’re mature enough for the summertime county fairs and the State Fair in September.
Although the work to care for those animals will continue, 4-Hers will not be allowed to bring their poultry to the county fair or State Fair this year because of the avian influenza outbreak that has –– so far –– affected 88 Minnesota poultry farms, including 33 in Kandiyohi County.
The decision, which was announced Friday morning by the Board of Animal Health and representatives from the State Fair and 4-H, will mean some empty fair barns and disappointed 4-Hers.
“Kids put a lot of time and effort into their poultry projects,” said Robert Moller, supervisor of the poultry barn at the Kandiyohi County Fair.
“It’s disappointing for sure, but we want to make sure we’re not spreading avian influenza,” he said.
Given the deadly nature of the H5N2 bird flu, bringing poultry from so many different farms together in one place was just too risky.
“There’s a chance of them bringing the virus back to their flocks, so it was probably a good idea not to have a show this year,” Moller said.
“There is no doubt that this decision will be a disappointment to our 4-H poultry families and the many dedicated volunteers who work with 4-H poultry kids statewide,” according to an email sent Friday by the University of Minnesota 4-H program to 4-H poultry families. “But this is the responsible choice and Minnesota 4-H fully supports this decision.”
Darrell Fostervold, president of the Kandiyohi County Fair Board, said the issue will be discussed at the board’s meeting on Monday.
Fostervold said he’d been anticipating some kind of action but the announcement will nonetheless mean some last-minute changes for the county fair and 4-Hers.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “We’ll have to play it by ear.”
Moller said efforts will be taken to find some way to engage the poultry 4-H members with their project, like making posters about poultry. His concern is that kids will get discouraged and not participate in the poultry program in the future.
“We hope the poultry program will be back next year and kids don’t shy away from it,” Moller said.
“For some 4-H kids this might be their only project in terms of an animal and they do put their heart and soul into it,” said Moller, whose own two kids were avid poultry exhibitors at the county and State Fair.
“They took pride in showing their animals,” he said.
Friday was supposed to be the deadline for 4-H members to submit their animal identification papers for large animals like swine, goats, sheep and cattle.
That deadline has been extended until May 29 to give 4-H poultry participants more time to secure a different animal species they can exhibit at the fair.
Meanwhile, Moller said the poultry barn, which is shared with rabbit projects, will probably include more rabbits this year at the Kandiyohi County Fair.
Poultry will also not be allowed at the FFA children’s animal barn at the Kandiyohi County Fair.
Tracy Tebben, from the New London-Spicer FFA, supports the precautions being taken to keep the avian influenza under control. “The FFA petting Barn will just have to increase the number of rabbits and other animals,” he said. “I think the public will understand.”