Much of the country is in the thick of county and state fair season. Veterinarians have a great responsibility in making sure clients’ show animals are healthy, inspected and certified for exhibition and sale.

Veterinarians can also be of great assistance in helping  the children of their clients understand biosecurity principles to prevent the transmission of animal-to-animal as well as zoonotic diseases while at the fair.

South Dakota State University has available guidelines for basic biosecurity of livestock show animals that veterinarians should discuss with or make available to their clients who intend to show livestock.

South Dakota State Public Health Veterinarian Russ Daly, DVM, Dipl. ACVPM, says that veterinarians probably understand disease transmission concepts better than any other professional there is, and they have their clients’ and the animals’ best interests at mind. 

“And youngsters, whether they show it or not, really do hang on the words from their veterinarian — more than those from their parents or club leaders,” Daly says. “Every veterinarian has a golden opportunity to discuss biosecurity procedures with youngsters when they are writing health papers on animals before they go to shows. These early-formed thoughts, along with their being responsible for specific procedures they themselves have to carry out (changing coveralls, cleaning equipment, etc.), will last for years.”

Fair season! Help young clients with biosecurityDiseases of concern
With the age and type of cattle normally present at cattle shows, Daly says respiratory issues like IBR, BRSV, and bacterial causes of pneumonia, along with infectious contagious enteric issues such as BVD and Salmonella, are the diseases of concern. “Whether they show it outwardly or not, animals transported and brought to a facility with many other animals are undergoing some stress, and therefore more prone to shed higher levels of these agents,” he says. 

Daly says that while illnesses from shows don’t normally get to the diagnostic lab, there have been some examples of exhibition-related outbreaks seriously affecting cattle (malignant catarrhal fever in Washington State), horses (equine Herpesvirus at a Utah horse event), and pigs (an erysipelas outbreak in South Dakota, along with evidence of influenza virus transmission elsewhere). 

Keep it clean
Many recommendations, including these guidelines encourage cleaning and disinfecting equipment and trailers. Daly says these items need to be cleaned first, then disinfected. “Dirt, manure, and organic matter first need to be removed with good old soap and water if possible,” he says. “After that, most disinfectants do a pretty good job against the germs we need them to work on — but none of them work when organic matter is present. For trailers and vehicles, we need to take a cue from our colleagues in swine medicine by making sure all the nooks and crannies are cleaned before disinfecting and allowing the trailer or vehicle to completely dry in between animal groups.”

Be an example
Veterinarians need to be diligent about it as well. “Veterinarians who think they don’t have enough time to do a good job cleaning up between calls are missing the boat,” Daly says.

“Their clients are paying attention — whether it seems like they are or not. It’s impossible for clients to seriously consider advice about disease control procedures from a professional who does not practice those procedures themselves. I know clients who have stopped using veterinarians for cleanliness reasons alone.”

See the biosecurity guidelines.