County fairs and other livestock exhibitions will soon be in full swing. Fairs are a great way for people in the community to learn more about livestock and the people who take care of them, but it can also be a risk for the animals and people involved. The combination of animals coming from multiple farms in one area and increased stress due to new environments can present a biosecurity hazard for animals at the fair and the herd at home. To prevent the possible spread of disease, make an effort to implement effective biosecure practices before, during and after the fair.
Before the fair or exhibition starts, take a close look at animals. Watch for signs of sickness, and be sure to leave unhealthy animals at home. Bringing a sick animal to the fair not only puts other animals at risk but brings an animal with a weakened immune system into a new, stressful environment that may worsen the current problem or increase the likelihood of a new problem forming.
It also is a good idea to secure an official veterinarian prior to the fair to check animals in. Animals showing signs of contagious diseases such as ringworm, warts or eye infections should be promptly sent home. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, all animals must be examined by an official veterinarian on the day they are admitted to the exhibition and at least once daily during the exhibition. Local county fairs may have slightly different guidelines, so double-check with the show superintendent to ensure that a vet will be present for check-in and there is a protocol in place for sick animals.
Once on the fairground, check out the area they will be housed in first. The barn should be clean and properly ventilated with adequate space between animals. Nose-to-nose contact is the quickest way to spread disease, so preventing contact between livestock from other farms is very important.
When the animals are in place, provide them with ample feed and water. The stress of new surroundings combined with excess heat and inadequate nutrition greatly increases the likelihood of them getting sick. Keep the livestock area clear of soiled bedding and avoid sharing equipment such as pitchforks, shovels and buckets with exhibitors from other farms.
During the fair, it also is important to practice proper personal hygiene and encourage fairgoers to do so too. Wash hands and boots off frequently to avoid carrying bacteria throughout the barns. It is recommended to discourage fairgoers from touching animals, as they may be sick themselves or they may have touched another animal carrying a disease. If letting fairgoers pet an animal, make sure they wash their hands before and after to minimize the chance of disease spread. This a great time to inform fairgoers about the importance of practicing strict biosecurity.
After leaving the fairground, fair animals should be isolated from the rest of the herd for at least two weeks to prevent them from spreading any disease they picked up at the fair. Watch livestock for signs of weakness or sickness and contact a veterinarian if symptoms develop. Rinse and disinfect all equipment that entered the fairground thoroughly, including buckets, feeders and shovels.
Infectious diseases can be transmitted by animals, people, equipment and vehicles, which is why implementing and sticking to strict biosecurity practices at all times is a key aspect in keeping livestock healthy. Kansas State University Extension is a great resource to check out for species-specific biosecurity information: https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/division-of-animal-health/animal-disease-control-and-traceability/biosecurity-resources.