Keeping animals (and you) healthy and safe at the fair

These Brown Swiss cattle enjoy a breeze from fans in the dairy barn.

These Brown Swiss cattle enjoy a breeze from fans in the dairy barn.

There are more than 3,000 head of livestock on the grounds at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair at any one moment during the fair, according to Dr. Jerry Sellon, the fair veterinarian.

IMG_20140721_132209That’s a lot of animals to keep track of during fair week, but the Elkhart County 4-H Fair has a number of precautions in place to keep all those animals and other fair visitors safe.

Sellon is one of three vets on the fair board, along with Dr. Robert Zell and Dr. Sara Granberg. Each livestock club also has multiple leaders and 4-Hers knowledgable about their animals’ health.

Animals are all checked to be sure they’re healthy when they enter the grounds, Sellon said.

A rabbit stays cool cuddled up with a frozen water bottle.

A rabbit stays cool cuddled up with a frozen water bottle.

The weather has been cooler than usual at the fair, but as temperatures rise this week, 4-Hers will watch their animals extra closely. 4-Hers will be watering their animals extra to be sure they stay hydrated, keeping fans aimed towards animals  and often washing their animals more than once a day to keep them cool, said Sellon and Zell.

“We want to exhibit healthy animals for our fair guests,” Sellon said.

A llama stays cool with a fan.

“Part of the 4-H learning process is learning what a healthy animal looks like and what a sick animal looks like,” Zell said. Most livestock clubs have a vet come to speak to them about animal health at least once a year, he added. “Of course, 4-Hers get to know their animals very well during the months leading up to the fair,” and so are even more able to know when something isn’t right with an animal.

Sellon also noted how the Elkhart County 4-H Fair continues to improve its facilities, like adding more wash racks and upgrading barns, to better accommodate animals. The fair’s requirements for animal health also continue to change as concerns arise.

The last few years, swine flu has been a concern for the hog industry and beyond. Sellon and fair organizers initiated a vaccination program requiring all swine to be vaccinated twice for the disease before entering the grounds. Tests last year at the fair by Ohio State University showed that the fair’s swine were 100 percent swine flu-free.

A 4-Her washes her beef animal Monday, July 21.

A 4-Her washes her beef animal Monday, July 21.

Fair visitors should still be cautious around the livestock on the fairgrounds, washing their hands after petting animals and only petting animals when the animal’s owner is present and says it’s okay, especially when it’s a larger animal, said Zell.

“Our animals are healthy, but they do carry some bacteria,” said Zell.

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