Photos by Caitlyn Barnett | Civitas Media
Ariel Estes laughs with one contestant at last year’s fair as she judges the girl’s duck.
No show birds will be allowed this year at the Lorain County Fair.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it has cancelled all live bird exhibitions at county and independent fairs, the Ohio State fair, and all gatherings of birds for show or sale.
That leaves 4-H clubs in our area wondering how or whether they’ll be able to share their hard work raising ducks, geese, turkeys, peacocks, and other fowl.
A contagious virus called Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza — the bird flu — has been spread throughout the country by wild birds, killing domestic poultry.
The virus began in Asia and was first discovered in the U.S. in late 2014.
According to the ODA, more than 44 million birds have been affected, but no human to this date has been affected by the virus.
“One of the ways avian influenza spreads is by direct contact with contaminated materials coming from other infected birds,” said state veterinarian Tony Forshey. “Until we can be sure that there has been no transference from the wild bird population migrating through the state, we need to do all we can to minimize the exposure for our domestic birds.”
Ohio is home to 28 million laying chickens, 12 million chickens people eat, and two million turkeys, which makes it the second largest egg producer in the country.
Forshey encourages bird owners not to allow their birds to have contact with wild birds and to keep their flocks inside.
Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and Michigan have also decided to cancel all bird shows for this fair season.
Indiana is the only neighboring state to have a flock test positive for the virus.
“This was a difficult decision because it means young people can’t show their birds at fairs, but it’s in the best interest of an industry that literally thousands of Ohio families and businesses depend on and which provides billions of dollars to our state’s economy,” stated ODA director David Daniels. “Ohioans need to do all we can to ensure that we protect our industry and that we help avoid a costly spike in the price of important foods like chicken, turkey, and eggs.”
It is unclear what the Lorain County Fair plans to do for 4-H kids who have already signed up to take birds to show.
“The experience of raising a live animal to show at the fair builds character and teaches responsibility,” Daniels said. “We don’t want to deprive anyone the opportunity to complete their projects.”
Firelands FFA advisor Shanna Finnegan said by email that she recommended her students on the Junior Fair board to still have a showmanship competition among fowl exhibitors.
The ODA recommended fairs to allow children to switch projects or allow them to use props or photos in place of live birds.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.