Flu fears lead to statewide ban on poultry exhibits

Farm Forum

PIERRE — Bird flu that has swept through many turkey and chicken operations in South Dakota and neighboring states has claimed another casualty: upcoming poultry expositions.

The South Dakota Animal Industry Board voted unanimously on May 20 to order an immediate suspension of poultry shows.

State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven said animal health experts don’t know what’s causing the deadly outbreaks.

He called the situation “a very devastating blow to our poultry industry” and told the board that North Dakota and Minnesota recently imposed similar bans on poultry shows.

“The risk of movement of this virus right now is very high,” he said.

In South Dakota, the H5N2 avian influenza virus has hit eight turkey flocks and one chicken egg-laying farm since the first report March 30 from Beadle County.

They comprise approximately 20 percent of the turkey population and nearly half of the layers.

Employees who work in turkey processing at Huron are concerned about whether their jobs could be lost, according to Cobbie Magness, a board member. He runs a livestock auction market at Huron.

“They’re scared,” Magness told the board. “You can’t ship it because you don’t have it. You lose a customer.”

There have been 170 operations affected in North America. The first came in British Columbia in December.

Oedekoven said the virus seems to be concentrated in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyway regions. Arkansas is the southernmost state so far.

“There is not a commercial vaccine available that is effective against this strain of virus,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with commercial manufacturers on a potential vaccine, he said.

Wind and concentration of birds appear to be two factors.

“We haven’t seen it in backyard flocks. We haven’t seen it in pheasant populations,” Oedekoven said.

He said pheasants are susceptible to the virus but there haven’t been any infected pheasants found in South Dakota.

Firefighters have assisted at the infected farms in South Dakota by spraying fire foam over the birds to suffocate them.

A control zone with a radius of 10 kilometers is set up around each infected farm.

The first infected farm in Beadle County saw its zone removed Tuesday because it was determined to be virus-free.

The poultry exposition suspension could remain in effect for months and possibly extend through the South Dakota State Fair that runs the first week of September in Huron.