KANSAS CITY, KAN. – The Kansas Department of Agriculture’s move to protect the Kansas poultry industry from avian flu by issuing a stop movement order was an important biosecurity step, but it means more than 2,000 Kansas 4-H members will have to be creative with how they complete their poultry projects.
“Recently, the KDA decided to close all poultry shows where birds are brought together to reduce the chances of spreading highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI),” said Kansas State University animal scientist Scott Beyer, referring to the KDA’s June 15 implementation of a stop movement order (http://agriculture.ks.gov/AllNewsItems/2015/06/09/movement-restrictions-for-poultry-events-exhibitions-and-sales-issued-in-kansas).
The order means all types of poultry activities where birds from different flocks would be co-mingled are canceled for the rest of the year. That includes poultry competitions at county fairs, the Kansas State Fair, festivals, swap meets, exotic bird sales and auctions.
More than 46 million birds across the United States have been killed because of HPAI, but that does not mean they were all infected, Beyer said. The virus has been found in poultry flocks in numerous states, including in northeast Kansas. In efforts to keep the disease from spreading, when the disease is detected in a flock, the whole flock is killed.
Although deadly to birds, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider the risk to humans from this particular virus (highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza) to be low. Poultry, poultry products, and wild birds are safe to eat if they are properly handled and cooked to 165 degrees F, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“This is good biosecurity,” said Beyer, a poultry specialist with K-State Research and Extension, of the stop movement order. “Biosecurity is one of the reasons the U.S. poultry industry began raising birds in confinement. They are a species where wild birds can fly into flocks in open areas and bring potential diseases. That doesn’t happen so much with cattle or swine.”
When more poultry was raised in open areas, it wasn’t uncommon to have death loss of 50 percent in a flock, he said.
Scientists believe U.S. poultry flocks were infected with HPAI by wild waterfowl, such as ducks and geese, migrating from one area to another earlier this year. More infections could occur during the fall migration.
The stop order means more than 2,000 Kansas 4-H members who were already preparing their chickens, ducks and other poultry projects for competitions including county fairs will have to come up with different ways of showing what they’ve learned, said Daryl Buchholz, K-State Research and Extension associate director. He added that the news is disappointing, but necessary.
“I’m proud of our extension agents and volunteer poultry project leaders who are figuring out creative and meaningful ways for youth to exhibit all they have learned through the poultry project without the live bird,” Buchholz said, adding that extension specialists and agents are also working with state fair officials to provide guidance for 4-H members to qualify and represent their projects at the state fair without having the actual birds present. One example for showmanship is to have the 4-H member show a stuffed bird and answer questions to demonstrate what he or she has learned by participating in the poultry project.
“Out of challenges comes creativity,” Buchholz said.
The stop movement order should serve as a reminder to anyone who has poultry – whether a few chickens to a backyard flock or a commercial business – that good biosecurity continues to be important, Beyer said.
Poultry producers are encouraged to monitor their birds for symptoms of the virus, and notify KDA at 785-564-6601 or HPAI@kda.ks.gov immediately if they suspect problems. More information about HPAI can be found at www.agriculture.ks.gov/avianinfluenza.
An Agriculture Today audio interview is available at http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/News/p.aspx?tabid=66 . Scroll to June 15, 2015 “Effects of Avian Influenza on 4-H Poultry Projects.”