As fair season approaches, livestock producers across the state are preparing to take their animals to the breed-sponsored and county fairs that lead up to regional and state fairs at the end of the summer, says Dr. David Fernandez, Extension livestock specialist and interim assistant dean of academic programs for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences. Fairgrounds, however, can be a central distribution point for livestock diseases, and it is important that producers take the necessary steps to protect their livestock before hitting the road to the fair circuit.

“A disease picked up at a fairground can ruin the chances of winning the late-season shows and even affect the herd’s breeding season later in the year,” he said. “Before producers and their children set off to their first show this year, there are some steps they can take to reduce the danger of bringing something besides the championship ribbon home.”

To ensure the health of their livestock during fair season, Dr. Fernandez recommends producers use the following tips:

  • Make sure animals’ vaccinations are up-to-date. A good vaccination program can prevent the spread of diseases.
  • Make sure your feeding program is adequate. It is important that the animals’ nutritional needs are met, as a well-nourished animal is more resistant to disease than one that is lacking a critical nutrient.
  • Reduce the animals’ stress at the fair. They should have access to clean water and a comfortable place to rest. Someone should be on hand to keep fairgoers from disturbing the animals too excessively, as it is important for them to maintain their feeding regimen and rest.
  • Minimize the animals’ exposure to other livestock. If possible, place a solid barrier between your animals and those in the neighboring pen so they cannot come into contact. Avoid sharing grooming equipment with other exhibitors. Remove your show stock from the fairgrounds as soon as you are permitted; preferably within 72 hours.
  • Have separate clothing for use on the show circuit and use in the barn. Boots and the hem of jeans can easily pick up fecal contaminants and transport them home to the rest of the farm.
  • Clean and disinfect tools before using them again at home.
  • Clean your truck and trailer. Avoid driving on the farm before you have a chance to thoroughly clean the tires and under the wheel wells. Wash out the trailer interior so that it drains away from your livestock at home, as manure and contaminated soil from the fair can easily contaminate your own farm.

At the fairgrounds, it is also important that producers watch out for any hazards that can injure animals, as some of the smaller and older fairgrounds around the state have not been fully maintained. Broken wires and pipes on corrals and pens can cause puncture wounds and serious lacerations. Animals can also be injured during loading and unloading or while standing on grooming tables.

“When you come home with your animals, it is a good idea to quarantine them for a time,” Dr. Fernandez said. “Ideally, animals returning from the fairgrounds should be kept away from the rest of the herd or flock for at least 30 days. This allows you to detect and treat any disease they have brought home without infecting the rest of your herd.”