With avian flu fears alleviated, feathered friends return to Beltrami County Fair
BEMIDJI -- There was a distinct lack of clucking and wings flapping at the Beltrami County Fair last year, with not a bird in sight. That's not the case in 2016. Thanks to a ban on poultry exhibitions being lifted by the Minnesota Board of Animal...
BEMIDJI -- There was a distinct lack of clucking and wings flapping at the Beltrami County Fair last year, with not a bird in sight.
That’s not the case in 2016.
Thanks to a ban on poultry exhibitions being lifted by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health on Dec. 1, birds are once again showing up at swap meets, exotic sales, petting zoos and fairs like the one in Beltrami County.
"We're absolutely thrilled that they're back," said Lori Brama, 4-H poultry project assistant. "This year, we kept our fingers crossed that avian influenza wouldn't show up again and it didn't, so it's good. When we found out, we got the word out as soon as possible, as the No. 1 question this year has been 'are there going to be birds?'"
Last year, the state Board of Animal Health issued a ban on poultry exhibition because of the widespread outbreak of avian influenza. Last summer, the agency reported 9,024,632 birds at 108 farms in 23 counties being affected by the disease. Regionally, reports of the influenza was made in Wadena and Roseau counties.
The result of the ban last year was 4-H participants in Beltrami County still engaging in exhibits with judges scoring their knowledge and information on the animals. The same procedure was done at the Minnesota State Fair.
The ban was lifted last winter, though, as no new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza were found since June 5, 2015.
"There has been no evidence of avian influenza anywhere in the state for sure. It's influenza free now, it's a big change from last year," Vern Holzhueter, 4-H Poultry Barn superintendent said. "I was worried that maybe families would be a little worried about getting back in this year with poultry, but our numbers are higher."
According to Holzhueter, this year's 4-H poultry show is possibly the largest in its history. In 2016, the show is featuring about 225 birds, while the average according to Holzhueter has been about 180.
While the birds have returned to the fair, though, Holzhueter said the most important aspect of the poultry show is giving the participants a chance to gain experience.
"The birds are the vehicle. The important thing is 4-H kids learning life skills and giving presentations," Holzhueter said. "That's the bigger picture, more than just learning about animals."