By TIM ALEXANDER
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois State Fair (ISF) and county fair junior poultry exhibitors will once again have an opportunity to receive recognition and earn premiums during “live” junior and open shows.
On June 21, 2022, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) announced that live poultry exhibitions would be suspended due to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). This meant that scores of Illinois 4-H youth were denied the opportunity to participate in live competitions at their county fairs or the 2022 Illinois State Fair and DuQuoin State Fair. Sales of poultry were also suspended. A virtual competition format was hastily substituted in place of live poultry shows at both county and state levels.
On May 3 the IDOA announced the return of in-person poultry shows for the 2023 fair season, which kicks off May 30 in Greene County. The ISF in Springfield runs from August 10-20, while the DuQuoin State Fair is scheduled for August 25 through September 4.
“It was decided that due to a decrease in (HPAI) activity, with our last detection in February, that the quarantine has been released. Hopefully with warmer weather and the migration of waterfowl moving further north, things will stay quiet,” said Dr. Mark Ernst, IDOA state veterinarian.
There were a total of seven confirmed HPAI detections in Illinois during the quarantine period, according to Ernst, of which five involved “backyard” poultry flocks. “Those flocks did not produce eggs for sale or anything like that,” he said. “They were smaller flocks.”
Towards the end of 2022 a larger flock of game birds was affected, and the final detection was in a commercial flock of turkeys raised for meat, the state veterinarian reported.
“The remainder of the commercial turkey flock was depopulated by the producer,” said Ernst.
“To my knowledge, none of these cases involved birds that were for showing at fairs, and the cases were scattered across the state.”
Ernst added that Illinois was fortunate in that no producers were forced to depopulate large flocks of laying hens during the quarantine, unlike neighboring Indiana and several other poultry producing states and regions. He advises poultry producers to remain vigilant in monitoring their flocks for signs of HPAI and other poultry diseases.
“We still want to remind our exhibitors to practice good biosecurity on your farm and monitor your flock for signs of disease, especially the birds you plan to exhibit for 14 days prior to the show,” Ernst recommended. “I still wouldn’t be doing things like going back and forth between my flock and a buddy’s flock, and I’d certainly continue to watch my birds. And of course, we don’t want anyone bringing a sick animal to any show.”
To that end, IDOA will provide inspectors to monitor poultry competition entrants during the 2023 ISF and DuQuoin Fair. It will be up to each individual county to provide monitors or veterinarians to ensure all birds entered into local competitions are free of disease.
HPAI is still spreading in parts of the U.S., with the latest confirmation coming on May 5, 2023 in Posey County, Indiana, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In total, 883 poultry flocks, of which 325 are described as commercial flocks, have been affected by HPAI during the most recent outbreak, which began in late 2021.
The most recent outbreak of note occurred in April 2023 in Dickey County, North Dakota and Beadle County, South Dakota, where over 140,000 commercial turkeys were affected. The case is still considered active.
Almost 59 million birds in total have been affected by HPAI in the United States during the latest outbreak, USDA reported. Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado, respectively, lost the most birds to HPAI during 2022, according to USDA.