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Northwest Iowa reactions mixed

By Staff | May 29, 2015

kschwaller@evertek.net

NORTHWEST IOWA – Reactions are mixed in Northwest Iowa regarding the May 21 announcement that no poultry shows would be happening at county fairs and the state fair this year, due to the avian bird flu outbreak.

But Kristi Peck, chairperson of the poultry and rabbit committee for the Dickinson County Fair, thinks lemonade is in the mix when life hands a person lemons.

She said the committee will meet soon to figure out what events they can think of to replace the bird show.

Examples include having 4-H’ers create their own birds using Styrofoam cups and craft supplies – and having those creations judged; having a poultry quiz bowl.

“Maybe we could have a chef come in and get together with 4-H’ers and prepare a chicken dish – then you have the mentoring of chefs and (the experience of cooking),” she said. “Or we could have some kind of master omelet cooking contest, where someone makes omelets and someone judges them.”

She said regulations for the Dickinson County Fair indicate that 4-H’ers and FFA members can show older birds, so she expects some of the birds that would have been in competition this year will be able to return next year.

Peck has children participating in the poultry project areas this year as well and said this will change their game plan.

They will merge their 4-H chickens with the rest of the flock and see what happens with them next year.

“It’s frustrating, but yet it isn’t,” she said. “You have to think about what is secure for all the people out there.

“It happens in other projects too – say, if you lose a calf or have a rabbit die. It’s one of those things that happen.”

Peck said her children aren’t necessarily upset about it. But as the chairperson for the poultry and rabbit committee, she said the barn will be lacking during the fair and will need something else to bring it to life during the week of the fair.

She said the broiler project, where 4-H’ers grow a chicken, butcher it and do the paper work on the economics of that project, will continue as usual, but the paper work will be the only aspect of that project area present in the barn this year.

Allison Goehring, a high school freshman and member of the Milford Pioneers 4-H Club, was planning to bring three laying hens to the fair for the showmanship project area.

“I was sad for the kids that really love to show chickens,” Goehring said. “For some kids, it’s their only animal and they are really into it.

“We all like going to the barns and checking out the projects. I have other projects, so at least I can take something to the fair.”

Though she said she agrees the chickens need to be protected, she thinks a different approach could have been investigated.

“Maybe they could have just brought their birds the day of (judging) and taken them home,” she said. “Maybe they could have even showed individually, (so they would not) infect other birds.

“But prevention is a very important lesson for future farmers. Prevention of an outbreak is more important than our ribbons and premium money.”

Goehring said she strives for sanitary conditions at home for the flock, and the family doesn’t take the birds anywhere.

“I”ll show some chickens next year, but probably not these ones. We will show younger birds,” she said.

Rachel Schoelerman, 12, also a member of the Milford Pioneers 4-H Club, said she understands the cancellation of the shows.

“I knew the bird flu was becoming a problem, but I did not think we would go all the way to cancelling the poultry projects at the fairs,” she said.

“But I did think it was necessary because all of these people come to (and participate in) the fair. If they go into the poultry building with the virus on them, they might infect all the birds and if you take those birds home, then you have a whole flock that is infected.”

Though she is disappointed not to show her poultry this year-four layers (Dominiques) and broilers, she said she will keep them and use the layers for eggs and the broilers for the meat.

“We will keep the Dominiques for egg layers, but we will not show them again,” said Schoelerman. “Most classes at the fair want the birds to be less than a year old.”

She was planning to participate in the pen of three competition, showmanship, individual hen and costume areas.

Josh Paskert, of Lake Park, has a daughter in 4-H who is also involved in the poultry project at the Dickinson County Fair. He said he still has hopes that there will be birds in the barns at the fair this year.

“I hope they change their minds before the fair comes around,” he said. “I’ve heard that it only takes a couple of days of 80-degree weather to get rid of it, so I hope they can do something.”

He said he is disappointed in the announcement, but for now, his family will keep the birds and collect the eggs.

He said their birds remain inside at all times, and boots are disinfected before going into and out of the building that houses them.

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