State cancels poultry shows statewide: Fair bird ban a learning experience
FALCON HEIGHTS -- More than 3,000 Minnesota 4-H members who planned to show birds at county fairs face a new lesson this year. "Sometimes you realize that life isn't fair," state 4-H official Brad Rugg said Friday as the Minnesota Board of Animal...
FALCON HEIGHTS - More than 3,000 Minnesota 4-H members who planned to show birds at county fairs face a new lesson this year.
“Sometimes you realize that life isn’t fair,” state 4-H official Brad Rugg said Friday as the Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced it is ordering that all bird shows across the state be canceled this year.
The action comes as nearly
6 million Minnesota turkeys and chickens have died or been euthanized due to H5N2 avian flu.
Assistant Director Dr. Beth Thompson of the board said the action is being taken to help prevent the spread of the virus.
In a news conference at the State Fairgrounds, Rugg said that 4-H will use the action as a learning experience, and members will benefit.
“Part of our job developing the next generation of agriculture leaders includes teaching youth best practices to ensure the health and safety of the animals they raise, and this is that learning being put into action in the real world,” Rugg said.
Health and other problems are folded into life as a farmer, said Steve Olson, executive director of turkey and chicken organizations and former 4-H and FFA member. “This is part of what it takes to raise food.”
Rugg said 3,200 exhibitors show birds at local fairs, and 250 are at the State Fair each year.
“We’re disappointed,” State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer said. “We know it is the right thing to do.”
Hammer said the fair will fill the poultry area during the late-August fair with poultry-related exhibits instead of live animals.
Rugg said deadlines for entering fair shows are being extended so 4-H members can show other animals.
The ban includes all birds, although only turkeys and chickens have been diagnosed with the flu. It also extends beyond fairs to swap meets, exotic sales and petting zoos.
“Taking this step makes sense,” Thompson said. “We need to do everything possible to get rid of this virus and preventing the commingling of birds from different farms is one way to do that.”
State officials say the risk to the public is “very low,” with no reports of H5N2 being passed from bird to human. Poultry and eggs are safe to eat, experts say, as long as they are cooked to proper temperatures, as is the case any time.
“Our No. 1 message is this is not a food safety issue,” Olson said.
Olson said that poultry producers remain on a “continued state of high alert.”
The infection of flocks appears to be slowing with warmer weather, although Olson said more infected flocks likely will be found in the next few days.
“This is a critical time for Minnesota’s poultry industry, and we’ll do whatever it takes to help,” Hammer said.