In early June, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) had to make the really difficult decision to cancel all live bird shows in the state in order to protect Ohio’s $2.3 billion poultry industry from the recent avian influenza epidemic. No Ohio cases have been discovered so far.
In Paulding County, the home of the first Ohio county fair for the year, Fair Board members made a decision about the poultry show before the State did.
“We needed to set a plan in place if there was going to be a ban on poultry shows in Ohio. We have Cooper Farms in our area and they create a large percentage of jobs for our county. We decided we didn’t want a large number of birds together in one building to give the disease more of a chance to spread. We made the decision as a board to cancel two weeks before the fair instead of waiting for the State to make their decision. We had the skillathon the following night, which was the last time we’d see the kids before the fair started and we told the exhibitors then that there would be no poultry show,” said Caleb Schlatter, Paulding County Senior Fair Board member and head of the poultry department. “When the ODA cancelled the shows it took a lot of pressure off. All these kids had all their birds and put in all of their work, but I feel like we did make the right decision.”
Instead of a show, the fair hosted an event for the poultry exhibitors.
“Cooper Farms put on a Jeopardy game with all poultry knowledge. They have three different classes: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Each level has harder questions testing their knowledge on poultry,” Schlatter said. “Cooper Farms also donated 75 pounds of turkey that they grilled here for all of the exhibitors and spectators at the show.”
At the Pickaway County Fair, which will be held next week, poultry exhibitors get to participate in showmanship and the sale.
“We are having an abbreviated showmanship show and an educational event. We have a judge coming,” said Bob Black, president of the Pickaway County Agricultural Society. “The sale committee decided to not let the exhibitors sell individually, but they can sign up and be in the ring. We were hoping to raise money for the kids who show up so they each get $50 or so. I heard from some buyers and they thought that was as fair as anything. We wanted to be fair to the kids with poultry, but we also still have many other kids who are going through the ring with other projects and we wanted to make sure they get good money for their project too. The kids need something, but nobody knew exactly what to do. I think this is a good solution.”
The poultry show ban will likely be handled differently by fairs all season long. Hopefully it can be viewed as a good learning experience for the affected exhibitors at every cancelled event for the year.
“This is educational because with livestock you never know what you are going to get,” Black said. “This is real life.”