The State Board of Animal Health has ended a temporary ban on poultry events in North Dakota that it put in place four months ago amid a national outbreak of bird flu.
However, the move comes too late for the State Fair to have poultry exhibits this year.
The Animal Health board in March canceled all shows, public sales, swaps and exhibitions of poultry and other birds within the state at the request of the North Dakota Turkey Federation, to help stem the spread of avian influenza. The order applied to events or sales where birds from different locations would be co-mingled. Private sales, catalog sales and retail sales were still allowed, though the use of online marketplaces was encouraged.
The board in early June extended the prohibition indefinitely. The group rescinded it Friday. Warmer summer weather and the slowing of bird migrations have diminished the risk of bird flu, according to the state Agriculture Department.
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“Rescinding the ban provides an opportunity for our youth and backyard flocks to once again participate in activities and public sales,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said.
Competitive livestock events are a popular part of the State Fair, which begins Friday in Minot. But the fair does not have enough time to arrange for any poultry shows this year, according to General Manager Renae Korslien. The lifting of the ban came “too close” to the fair, she said.
Bird flu has infected 16 flocks in 10 North Dakota counties, but only one flock has been added to the list in the last two months, according to state data. Most of the documented infections have been in small backyard flocks, though four commercial flocks have been impacted.
Federal data shows that 167,000 birds in the state have been destroyed, mostly in the commercial flocks. The largest backyard flock that has been affected in North Dakota was 110 birds. State Turkey Federation Vice President David Rude has said no infected birds or meat has entered the food chain.
North Dakota has nine turkey farms that produce about 1 million birds annually, along with numerous backyard flocks, according to the Agriculture Department. The agency does not identify the owners or specific locations of infected flocks, only the counties, citing North Dakota law that the Animal Health board to keep such information private. Counties with bird flu known to be present are Kidder, Burke, Richland, LaMoure, Barnes, Sheridan, Cass, Dickey, Renville, Stutsman and McHenry.
There also have been 246 confirmed cases of avian influenza in numerous types of wild birds throughout the state, including in Burleigh and Morton counties, according to federal data. North Dakota has the most wild bird confirmations among the states, though only two cases have been confirmed since late May. Impacted species in the state include geese, ducks, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, eared grebes, turkey vultures, owls, hawks, crows, pelicans, cormorants, snowy egrets, northern harrier and common goldeneye.
“While the threat of (bird flu) has diminished, we ask poultry enthusiasts and producers to remain vigilant, as the virus is still present and causing sporadic incidents across the country,” State Veterinarian Dr. Ethan Andress said.
A positive bird flu diagnosis in the state will trigger a reinstatement of the ban, according to the Agriculture Department.
The bird flu outbreak in the US has resulted in the slaughter of about 40 million chickens and turkeys in 37 states, according to the federal Agriculture Department. Officials order entire flocks to be killed when the virus is found on farms to try to limit the spread of the virus.
This year’s outbreak is the worst since 2015, when about 50 million chickens and turkeys were killed, according to The Associated Press. North Dakota that year had two cases of bird flu, in Dickey and LaMoure counties, affecting more than 100,000 birds.
Sick or dead wild birds can be reported at https://gf.nd.gov/wildlife/diseases/mortality-report. Questions can be directed to 701-204-2161. More information about bird flu and biosecurity is available at www.nd.gov/ndda/disease/avian-influenza, https://bit.ly/3L7FzMV and usgs.gov/centers/nwhc.