In short:

Many poultry shows have been cancelled due to bird flu outbreaks, including one in Mount Gambier, SA, that relies on Victorian fanciers.

The Royal Adelaide Show’s pigeon, poultry, and egg competitions will not accept interstate entrants.

What’s next?

The SA government says it will look at further measures if the illness reaches South Australia.

Usually, at this time of year, poultry fancier Trevor Dent rarely has a weekend spare.

Agriculture show season normally sees him showing and judging poultry competitions around Australia. 

But with the cancellation of many events in Victoria and other impacted states — and even one locally — due to bird flu, he is spending a lot more time at home in South Australia’s south east.

“It has a big effect, but it frees up your weekends a bit,” Mr Dent said.

“It’s unlikely that we would get it, but we’ve got to take every precaution because the risk is small, but the repercussions are huge.” 

The Mount Gambier Poultry and Pigeon Club has decided to cancel its annual championship show planned for August because of quarantine requirements for birds travelling from Victoria.

About 80 per cent of the show’s 600 entries normally come from Victoria, but poultry coming from that state now has to be kept separate from local birds for at least 14 days.

Trevor Kuhl says many people are considering not taking part in the Royal Adelaide Show.(ABC South East SA: Becc Chave)

Club president Trevor Kuhl said the decision was hard to make, but members understood the concern.

“A lot of years of work go into breeding your poultry, so there’s understanding,” Mr Kuhl said.

“They don’t want to lose them, so they’re willing to just forgo it for now for the best of the hobby.”

Pigeon, poultry, and egg competitions are still expected to go ahead at the Royal Adelaide Show, but the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society SA has barred interstate entries.

Mr Kuhl said many club members might decide not to compete at the Royal Adelaide Show, to be held from August 31 to September 8.

He said most had been taking measures to prevent their poultry from getting in touch with wild birds.

“You do your best to use small mesh now and try and keep them locked up as much as possible, trying to minimise that contact,” Mr Kuhl said.

“You can’t inoculate them … you just try and minimise or prevent as best you can. 

“As it gets closer to the border, it’s a real concern.”

Poultry competitions have been cancelled due to bird flu outbreaks.(Supplied: Anne Beaty)

Cancellations to keep birds safe

Over the border in Victoria, bird flu outbreaks have decimated this year’s exhibition calendar.

Victorian Poultry Fanciers Association secretary Anne Beaty said just five of the 65 shows planned for this year had run before the outbreaks, and it was “highly unlikely” any other shows would run in 2024.

The Melbourne Royal Show announced earlier this week that it would not hold its usual poultry competitions.

The Melbourne Royal Poultry Competition 2024 has been cancelled amid a bird flu outbreak across the state.(Supplied: Melbourne Royal Show)

Ms Beaty said the cancellations were a blow to hundreds of competitors across the state.

“Our exhibitors have been breeding since last year and have got some really nice quality birds to bench, and now they’re going to have to stay home,” she said.

“Some of our strains … are irreplaceable, so the best thing to keep them safe is to keep them at home.”

Ms Beaty said breeders broadly supported the measures.

“It’s hard but it’s understandable,” Ms Beaty said.

“I think all the measures that have been taken … are keeping our exhibition poultry safe.”

Fanciers spend years breeding birds for competitions at top shows.(Supplied: Anne Beaty)

‘No risk’ to humans

Primary Industries Minister Clare Scriven said the government was doing “all it can” to keep SA free of the disease.

However, she said the strains present interstate would not impact humans.

“As long as people are still cooking their meat properly, preparing their eggs, and cooking them properly, there’s no risk to human health,” she said.

“We’ve already banned the transport of live poultry and fertile eggs from the affected areas in Victoria.

“If we do get to the stage where it’s here, then we do need to look at it at that time.”

Farms interstate have been put under quarantine due to bird flu.(ABC News: Marcus Stimson)

Opposition spokesperson for Primary Industries Nicola Centofanti said proactive measures were needed to prevent bird flu from entering the state.

“We know that the disease is spread often through migratory birds, and so I think it’s really important that we are proactive in our approach here in South Australia,” she said.

“It’s up to industry to work with government on strategies they feel would assist the prevention, but we’ve already seen housing orders for free range chickens in the outbreak areas. 

“I think this is something that all states should be considering, with exemptions for labelling with exceptional circumstances for a period of time to reduce the risk of contact with that wild bird population.”

Ms Centofanti, a veterinarian, urged people with backyard chickens to take care to limit the risks of the disease spreading from wild birds.

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