Birds are back at the fair

The return of the poultry category to the 2016 Hamilton County Fair saw a steep decline in numbers.

After the Avian Influenza (bird flu) outbreak in 2015, the category was cut from last year’s Hamilton County Fair. Competitors in the category were given notice last May that due to the widespread hazard and concern for health and safety, chickens and other birds would not be allowed at the fair.

According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship website, the department issued the order prohibiting poultry exhibitions on May 21 in the midst of the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The ban was put into place to minimize spread of the disease and protect the state’s domestic bird population. Lifting the poultry exhibition ban came as a result of no new cases of HPAI in Iowa since June of 2015 and the lifting of the final quarantine on Dec. 1, 2015. Iowa is now considered free of HPAI. The ban was lifted Jan.1, 2016 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture, a total of 77 premises and 31.5 million birds were affected with the disease in Iowa including 35 commercial turkey flocks, 22 commercial egg production flocks, 13 pullet flocks, and five backyard flocks.

Numbers down

With the poultry category back in play at this year’s fair, numbers are low according to the 2016 Hamilton County Fair Poultry Superintendent Mike Tempel.

“Numbers are down,” said Tempel. “We had not quite half of what we had for entries two years ago.”

This is Tempel’s first year as poultry superintendent at the Hamilton County Fair. Tempel showed pigeons as a child and got his son started showing chickens in 4-H.

“I’ve heard other county fairs including Webster county are down in numbers also,” said Tempel. “Many fairs are affected after not having it last year.”

There were only two or three new competitors in the poultry competition this year according to Tempel. Only two kids were first-year show-ers. Tempel said that kids ages 10 to 17 competed this year.

“Kids were scared to get chickens this year,” said Tempel. “I think last year took a toll on the amount of kids.”

Tempel estimated a total of 40 to 50 chicken entries at this year’s county fair.

Tempel noted that the poultry industry as a whole took a hit as a result of the outbreak.

“Bio-security got lax. Now they are stiff on what they do for bio-security,” said Tempel.

“I’m hoping some kids get back into it,” said Tempel.

Tempel said that although there are no new regulations on poultry entries this year, they are keeping a watchful eye over this year’s entries. The high heat is a constant threat and stressor for all of the animals at the fair.

“If you’re going to get chickens keep them clean, keep a close eye on them, and if they look sick have a veterinarian check them out,” Tempel cautioned.

Tempel has enjoyed his first year as poultry superintendent and hopes to see more entries in 2017.

“I enjoy working with the kids and birds,” Tempel said. “The first year went pretty good. There were no major problems.”

Tempel’s son, Trey, brought home the honors for showing the Grand Champion Poultry at this year’s show.

“This year was much more fun to be able to show birds because the highlight of my summer is the county and state fair,” said Trey Tempel. “Being able to show poultry this year has made me really happy and made my summer better overall.”

“Having finally won after showing for my sixth year has made me happy because all of the hard work paid off,” said Trey Tempel. “I’ve come close before but never won overall grand champion. This was also one of my goals for this project area since I joined. I’m really happy to have finally accomplished this goal.”