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Plans for poultry contests continue for next State Fair
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Almost 200 4-H members are planning to compete in the poultry project during the 2015 Mississippi State Fair in October.
Jessica Wells, a poultry science instructor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said organizers are limiting each exhibitor to visual presentations and just one bird for showmanship.
“Instead of bringing the birds from home, exhibitors will be judged on visual presentations with show boards and record books highlighting their flocks at home. Participants can enter either the project board and record-book category and/or the showmanship competition,” Wells said. “If an avian influenza outbreak should occur in Mississippi before the Oct. 15 check-in date, the only cancellations would be showmanship classes.”
Extension poultry specialist Tom Tabler said the efforts to limit movement of birds off farms is one way to help prevent the flu virus from infecting Mississippi poultry if it spreads south this winter as migratory waterfowl leave their nesting grounds.
“More than 200 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza occurred from December through June, resulting in the loss of more than 48 million birds, primarily in turkey and egg-laying facilities in 15 states,” Tabler said. “The greatest losses occurred in Minnesota and Iowa.”
Betty Roberts, poultry director with the Mississippi Board of Animal Health, said her agency will be testing backyard flocks for all birds that are brought to county fairs. This testing has been standard practice since poultry competitions resumed three years ago after a 34-year absence.
“Each healthy bird tested will receive a certificate that it is free of avian influenza and approved for the showmanship competition at the State Fair,” she said.
Roberts said the state has about 2,000 backyard flocks. The Mississippi Board of Animal Health has a free testing program to check those flocks for bird flu, pullorum disease and fowl typhoid.
Wells said all 4-H members with poultry projects need to make arrangements to have their flocks tested as soon as possible. They can make those appointments by emailing Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wells said entry forms for competitions this fall are due by Sept. 1. State Fair exhibitors will check in with their birds and/or project boards and record books between 9 a.m. on Oct. 15 and 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 16, before judging begins at 9 a.m.
“Poultry’s presence has been growing at the state fair with participants showcasing their hard work growing birds with their visual presentations,” Wells said. “These participants will still receive awards just as in years past because of the efforts they put into rearing their flocks throughout the year.”