(Editor’s note: We asked 17-year-old Julia Arnold, a longtime Putnam County 4-H’er who has raised grand and reserve champion turkeys, for her thoughts on the statewide ban on poultry shows. Her comments remind us just how much the 4-H youth development program teaches our youth — and that life is much more than a livestock project.)
By Julia Arnold
I have raised turkeys for a Putnam County, Ohio, 4-H project for many years. I start out each 4-H year by ordering five free turkey poults from Cooper Farms and then buying one or two extras. My journey truly begins when we pick them up from the hatchery.
I would never call raising turkeys from less than 48 hours old to market age easy since it is quite common to have one or two die within the first few weeks. Even though we have to live with this discouraging reality, we still try everything we can to keep our birds as happy and healthy as possible.
For example, in this past year I had a young turkey that would lay down and refuse to eat, drink, or walk. I ended up using a dropper to let him drink a few drops of water with electrolytes at a time.
Sure enough, the next day the little bird was trying to jump out of the box that we had used to keep him from being trampled by the others. His condition completely turned around from the night before, and I had no deaths this year. This shows that I truly care about my animals, and I am sure that my peers in 4-H share my same conviction.
About the ban
Recently I heard the news that there will be no live poultry shows in Ohio this year due to the potential of avian influenza. Since my county’s fair is in June, I cannot change my project.
County 4-H extension educators and fair boards of later fairs are working on creative ways to make the best of this situation, but we’ll likely just do posters in Putnam County. One positive thing is we’ll still be able to go through the junior fair premium sale and get money for the feed bills.
Since my other livestock project involves raising ducks, I will not compete in any show with live animals this year.
Some people might think that now all of my work was for nothing since I can’t win a trophy, but I disagree.
While I’m disappointed that I can’t compete, I understand why the state made its decision. There is a large poultry industry in Ohio, so the arrival and spread of avian influenza would be devastating. My backyard turkeys are less than a drop in the bucket compared to those businesses, and while raising my turkeys is for fun, for farmers it is their livelihood.
Security for those millions of birds being raised commercially far outweighs the wants of someone like me.
Some people might think that now all of my work was for nothing since I can’t win a trophy, but I disagree. Caring for my birds every day still taught me responsibility and spending time with them has made me attached to them. I love my silly turkeys and all of their weird quirks.
What matters most to me is that I am able to give my turkeys and ducks a happy life and that I can share in their happiness.
In my heart, I have still earned first place, so it’s fine if I don’t have a trophy to say it.
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