Poultry experts urge caution during fair season
By Ryan McGeeney
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Avian influenza detected in about 200 migratory flocks in northern states
- Currently no ban on bird exhibitions at state fairs
- Use common-sense approach to dealing with birds showing signs of illness
LITTLE ROCK — Poultry and biosecurity experts are warning small flock owners in Arkansas and throughout the region to exercise caution at county fairs and elsewhere this season.
Dustan Clark, associate director for the University of Arkansas Poultry Science Center in Fayetteville, said a high incidence rate of avian flu among wild migratory flocks this season is just one reason for flock keepers to use extra precautions and increased vigilance when deciding whether to show exhibition birds at fairs, and before returning them to join other birds at home.
“Any time there’s a congregation of birds, animals or people, there’s a risk that you could have an individual that is not yet showing signs, incubating disease,” Clark said. “That’s why we’ve always suggested that after a fair, when you bring your exhibition birds back to your farm, that you quarantine them for about 30 days. That gives most things a chance to break.”
Clark said that there are currently no restrictions on poultry exhibitions in Arkansas. He said that most flock owners would never even bother to bring a sick bird to an exhibition “because it wouldn’t win,” but that a poultry superintendent at any competition would immediately remove any bird showing signs of illness.
Retired Arkansas State Veterinarian Dr. Pat Badley said the risk of avian influenza through the Midwestern states is particularly pronounced this year, as the virus has been detected in about 200 migratory flocks. The risk is that during the flocks’ southern migration in the fall, wild waterfowl will interact with domestic flocks, spreading the disease, he said.
“As much as possible, owners need to avoid any contact with wild waterfowl,” Badley said. “And that’s pretty hard to do.
“You need to be careful whenever you’re going in and out of where you keep your backyard flocks, so you don’t track in the virus,” he said. “That’s mostly how it gets there. You just have to be real clean and sanitary around your birds.”
Bradley recommended providing overhead shelter for backyard flocks.
Badley said that avian influenza vaccines are currently banned in the United States, primarily because their use would run afoul of some international trade policies. He said that in an emergency, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would likely overturn the ban.
“The only preventative for the avian influenza, if it comes south again, is to protect your flock from other chickens and waterfowl,” he said. “You don’t need to be going to see other peoples’ chickens, and then coming back to yours, without changing your clothes and boots.”
Badley said that if the virus is detected in domestic flocks in any state bordering Arkansas, the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission will likely declare a halt on all poultry exhibitions within the state.
For more information on avian influenza and appropriate safeguards to guard against
transmission of the disease, visit www.uaex.edu.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service