Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development lifts ban on poultry shows

CHALLENGE: Last year, 4-H'ers performed to the best of their ability with a bird which was neither alive nor completely anatomically correct. In the case of turkey, the plush animal also was not the same size as a live specimen. (Herald Review file photo)
CHALLENGE: Last year, 4-H'ers performed to the best of their ability with a bird which was neither alive nor completely anatomically correct. In the case of turkey, the plush animal also was not the same size as a live specimen. (Herald Review file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — There will be a lot more squawking than last year at this summer’s Mecosta County Agricultural Free Fair and Osceola County 4-H FFA Fair.

Last week, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced the statewide ban on poultry exhibitions has been lifted. The ban was put in place in June as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of the avian flu.

The ban prevented mixing birds from different locations, thus putting a stop to various types of exhibits and shows at fairs throughout the state.

Mecosta County 4-H Program Coordinator Tarin Minkel is thrilled about the ban being lifted.

“We’re excited about it because this year we can once again have live birds at the fair,” Minkel said. “Because of the ban, the kids who bring birds to show but not sell were disappointed. This decision will make it so everyone can participate again.”

Despite not being able to bring live chickens, turkeys and ducks to the fair, the show went on with poultry exhibitors competing in showmanship using fake birds. Still, many 4-H'ers were disappointed they were unable to bring their own project to the fair.

With the use of the faux birds, none of the market classes could be completed because those involve an evaluation of an actual bird, Minkel explained.

During showmanship, in which the exhibitor is judged, model birds were able to be used, though it was obviously different than working with a real animal.

However, Minkel did see a positive from having to use fake birds.

“It was kind of a cool thing because it gave kids who may have never shown a bird before the chance to practice without the pressure and having to maybe deal with fear of a live bird,” she explained. “So I’m hopeful maybe there will be a few who got more comfortable because of it and will want to participate this year."

The number of poultry projects won’t be known until the spring, Minkel said, but she believes the amount of poultry exhibitors will be up because of the ability to bring in live birds.

Minkel also is looking forward to pens being filled, giving fair visitors another animal to get an up close look at.

“People will be able to actually see the poultry and the barn will have animals in it again, unlike last year, so that’s another thing to be excited about,” she said.

In its announcement lifting the ban, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development stated monitoring avian flu nationally will continue and the ban could be reinstated if the department feels it’s necessary.

The 2016 Mecosta County Agricultural Free Fair is scheduled for Monday, July 11, through Saturday, July 16.