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Tanner Freiburger, of Bernard won Champion Poultry Project and Champion Junior Showman at last year's Dubuque County Fair. Tanner is the son of Steve and Cathy Freiburger and a member of the Fillmore Achievers.

An outbreak of avian flu and the deaths of more than seven million birds have strained poultry producers around the state. Though it poses little risk to humans, preventive measures aim to stop the spread of the illness.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s decision to cancel all live bird exhibitions at county fairs and the Iowa State Fair has only added to the disappointment and frustration of the viral outbreak. Iowa joins Wisconsin, New York, Minnesota and several other states who have announced similar bans on poultry exhibits for this year. The Iowa poultry event ban also includes livestock auctions and sales.

Among those affected by the recent announcement are Dubuque and Delaware County 4-H and FFA members. Poultry exhibitors are finding different ways to showcase their hard work, which means focusing more on other animal projects and indoor exhibits.

At last year’s Dubuque County Fair, 26 children showed live birds, while poultry is a growing project area at the Delaware County Fair. The cancellation of poultry exhibits puts a damper on that growth, but extension officials are confident that the experience will be a good learning experience for county youth.

“We encourage all fairgoers to come out and see the creative ways our youth are demonstrating what they have learned from this experience,” said Amber Reiter, Delaware county extension program director.

For the Freiburger family of Bernard, the cancellation of the poultry exhibits comes as a disappointment.

At last year’s Dubuque County Fair, Tanner, 12, won Champion Poultry Project and Champion Junior Showman, while Trever, 11, was named Reserve Champion Junior Showman.

Both Tanner and Trever were hoping to add to their poultry trophy case and defend their respective awards this summer.

Instead, Trever, Tanner, and their sister, Tori, 15, will focus on projects involving other animals, including competing in the rabbit, beef and bucket bottle calf shows.

While the Fillmore Achievers members are disappointed with the cancelled poultry show, each looks forward to showcasing their alternate projects.