Kaytlynn Kenyon

Poultry will be back at Stevens County Fair

In an optimistic sign that the last spring’s avian influenza plague has passed for this year, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health had ended its temporary poultry exhibition ban. It was lifted July 1.

That’s good news for 4-H poultry exhibitors and state fair competitors at the Stevens County Fair. 

When the state’s poultry industry was struck by a severe outbreak of avian influenza that killed more than 9 million turkeys and chickens, poultry in 2015 shows at county 

fairs were canceled. There were no trips to the Minnesota State Fair for kids who would have qualified at their county fairs.

At some county fairs in 2015, 4-H participants used fake chickens and other poultry as props to demonstrate to judges their knowledge of the birds. This year they get to use the real thing.

“We feel HPAI cases have slowed enough to allow poultry events to resume in Minnesota,” Board of Animal Health Interim State Veterinarian, Dr. Linda Glaser said in a statement last week. “We appreciate the patience and cooperation from everyone affected as we temporarily restricted these events to address the HPAI outbreak in our state.”

State animal health officials enacted the ban in April after the state saw its first cases of the deadly avian diseases confirmed in a Meeker County turkey barn March 25. There was also confirmation of the disease in a backyard flock the same day in Mower County. By April 5, 21 cases had been confirmed with the death of over 1 million turkeys.

The ban was extended twice as cases of avian flu continued to spread in Minnesota. It applied to all poultry swaps, fairs, exhibitions and other events where live poultry and susceptible birds were brought together and then dispersed when the events ended.

There have been no new cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) since May 31, however, the state Animal Board of Health says that “biosecurity is still the most effective precaution poultry owners can follow to protect their flock. There are still occasional detections of HPAI in wild birds, which means the virus is still in the environment and poses a risk to bird owners.” 

As they prepare for fairs and other events where poultry are brought together, the state says that biosecurity measures must be observed before and after the events. 

“Precautions include handwashing, reporting sick birds to the fair veterinarian, and keeping birds isolated from the rest of your flock when returning home,” the Animal Board of Health says.

While Stevens County didn’t see any confirmed cases of avian flu this year, several neighboring counties did. Swift County with the loss of nearly 290,000 turkeys, ranked third in Minnesota in poultry losses.

Big Stone County to the southwest saw the loss of 49,501 turkeys. Grant County to the north saw one case of avian flu in a backyard flock with the loss of 309 birds.

In the 2015 avian flu outbreak, Pope County saw the first case in the state. However, this year it was spared. Stevens County also did see any cases of the disease in 2015.

Minnesota poultry 2022 losses

Total state losses of poultry this year have reached 2,963,747 with 59 commercial turkey and chicken facilities infected along with 21 backyard flocks. Those losses are far below the toll of the 2015 avian flu pandemic when nearly 5 million turkeys died and over 4 million chickens.

This year, turkey losses as of the last case May 31 were 2,658,415 compared to 4,994,700 in 2015. Chicken losses are at 303,891 compared to 4,029,782 in 2015. Backyard losses have reached 1,440 this year compared to 150 in 2015.

It is also suspected that the avian flu took a considerable toll among wild birds.

The 2022 avian flu outbreak was spread mostly by wild waterfowl, not flock-to-flock as in 2015, State Veterinarian Beth Thompson said as the state tracked its spread this spring. Prevention of the spread of avian flu among commercial facilities was aided by lessons learned in 2015 and the biosecurity measures implemented to protect barns.

Dr. Carol Cardona, a professor of avian health at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, said the 2022 virus is a relative of the 2015 strain a highly pathogenic variant found in wild birds. She said that was why cases were popping up in different areas of the state, and not necessarily spreading from farm to farm.

This year, the avian influenza was reported in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Total U.S. losses as of Monday were reported 40.09 million, according to the USDA’s avian flu tracking page. So far, 186 commercial flocks have been hit and 193 backyard flocks were affected.

Iowa has seen the largest losses with 13.74 million turkeys, chickens and backyard poultry dead. It has been more than a month since the state saw its last case. Nebraska is a distant second at 4.855 million. Minnesota ranks sixth in losses. 

Five Counties With Highest Losses 

County    Turkeys    Chickens    Backyard   Total

Morrison   418,481     259,141          54          677,676

Meeker     542,222         0                  0           542,222

Swift         289,920          0                16            289,936

Kandiyohi   283,874        0                 0             283,874

Stearns      276,866         0               146           276,012

2022 Avian Flu Losses By Month

Month     Turkeys     Chickens    Backyard   Flocks

March       425,563             0              166             7

April         2,053,401      303,891        399           58

May           179,451             0              875           13

June               0                   0                0              0

Total          2,658,415     303,891       1,440          80

This spring’s 2022 H5N1 HPAI outbreak in Minnesota posed a high risk to poultry but low risk to the public. There is no food safety concern for consumers.

Flock owners should continue to practice good biosecurity around their birds and report any suspicious illness to their veterinarian.

Follow the latest information on HPAI in Minnesota, as well as resources for poultry owners on the board’s website: www.mn.gov/bah/hpai. Anyone who needs to report sick birds or has questions about the outbreak can call the Minnesota Avian Influenza Hotline: 1-833-454- 0156.

2022 Avian Influenza Outbreak Losses

County Flocks   Turkeys Chickens Backyard

Morrison 12     418,481 259,141 54

Meeker 4     542,222 0   0

Swift 4     289,920 0 16

Kandiyohi 9     283,874 0   0

Stearns 9     276,866 0        146

Otter Tail 4     122,531 0   0

Lyon 1     120,303 0   0

Todd 5     117,023 0 52

Yel Med 2     49,501   44,750   0

Renville 1     76,381 0   0

Waseca 3     63,696 0   0

LeSueur 2     57,402 0   0

Dakota 1     54,443 0   0

Big Stone 1     49,501 0   0

Blue Earth 2     49,112 0   0

Becker 1     44,681 0   0

Lac qui Parle 1     22,507 0   0

Dodge 1     19,971 0   0

Chisago 5         0 0 310

Grant 1                0 0 309

Crow Wing 1 0 0   145

Benton 2 0 0   133

Rice 1 0 0  87

Carver 2 0 0   51

Mower 1 0 0   20

Polk 1 0 0   48

Clay 1 0 0   24

Anoka 1 0 0   10

Total 80     2,658,415     303,891 1,440