The Iowa Department of Agriculture announced Thursday afternoon an order to immediately cancel all live bird exhibitions at county fairs, the Iowa State Fair, and other gatherings of birds due to avian influenza.
Iowa Ag Secretary, Bill Northey, says they looked at a lot of factors in making the decision. “In the interest of making sure that we don’t spread this disease — that we minimize the opportunity for it to move around the state especially — it’s important for us to cancel those exhibitions and make sure we are doing everything we can in the midst of this situation to control the disease,” Northey says.
The county fairs will be the first to be impacted. “It’s sure hard to take away that opportunity that kids would have to be able show,” Northey says. “And I know we have a lot of folks who go to our county fair and our state fair to be able to see some of the birds and to talk to some of the young producers out there.” The state announced the 63rd probably case of the avian flu Thursday shortly after announcing the cancellation of poultry shows.
Northey says they want to be sure the spread of the disease is stopped as it is starting to look like it is slowing.”We still see a few cases, we’ve seen some this week, nearly every day this week a case or two. The number has slowed down, and certainly the size of the operations that have been impacted have decreased to some degree here,” according to Northey. “We’re hopeful that we are on the downhill side of this. Some of our neighboring states we are starting to see them go several days without new cases and we’re hopeful throughout the whole midwest that we are getting towards the end of this.”
Iowa State Fair Manager, Gary Slater, says they support the decision. “We’re certainly disappointed that we are not able to continue our poultry competition this year…disappointed that this one had to be canceled,” Slater says. Slater says understand the reasoning behind the decision. “Our poultry industry is very important to the economy and to the industry here in Iowa, and we certainly would not want to jeopardize anybody or anything by spreading this disease as we try to get this virus stamped out as best we can,” Slater says.
He says the decision comes in time to let county fairs know. The county fair winners move on to the Iowa State Fair to show their birds. He says they have around 100 exhibitors between chickens, turkeys, ducks and pigeons, and they have more than 1,000 animals they put on display.
The Iowa State Fair poulty exhibit dates back to 1904, and not only will the exhibitors miss having animals at the fair, but he says it takes away one of the things he and others like stop in and see. Slater says he loves going into the barn and seeing the different colors and types of chickens in the poultry barn. “It’s very entertaining to one degree, but it’s also educational, ag educational,” Slater says.
The poultry exhibits share space with the rabbits and Slater says they will work on filling out the space. “We’ll try to make sure that we have either educational exhibits on poultry and the poultry industry in Iowa, or maybe can extend a little bit the bunnies in the barn so we don’t have just part of the fair where there’s nothing in there,” Slater says. He says they’ll be brainstorming over the next few weeks to see what they can put in there.
The state now has more than 25 million birds that have been hit by the avian influenza and are in the process of being destroyed.