State fair cattle

Exhibitors groom their cattle at the South Dakota State Fair 2018. 

It’s that time of year! The state fairs are just around the corner which means that hundreds of thousands of animals will be leaving their home towns to strut their stuff against the rest of the state.

What that means for animal owners is that they need to be up to date on the latest biosecurity protocols to keep their animals safe and healthy.

Avoid nose-to-nose contact

Never let your animal make contact with another animal’s nose. Respiratory diseases are often transmitted via this route.

Even if an animal does not have a snotty nose or a fever, they still could be shedding viruses and bacteria. These organisms are transmitted through respiratory droplets and through nasal discharge. Once your animal comes in contact with these secretions, their mucous membranes that live in their nose will allow for the bacteria or virus to invade and cause disease.

Also, when animals drink water, their nasal and oral secretions enter the water bucket. Never share water – or any equipment – with other animals.

Avoid fecal-oral contact

Gastrointestinal diseases that cause diarrhea are most likely transmitted via fecal-oral route. This means that when the animal with the disease defecates (poops) and another animal comes along and gets the feces in their mouth, then they will be exposed to the disease.

You can avoid this at the fair by always using the designated manure dumping areas, always being prompt about picking up manure, never letting your animal’s nose come in contact with the ground, washing your hands between touching other people’s animals and yours, etc.

Think about when you ask a show heifer to step over. What do you do? You grab their tail. Now you have that animal’s feces on your hands, then you go to your heifer and untie them. They lick your hand and now they have that animal’s feces in their mouth.

Lessen animal-human-animal contact

If fairgoers are walking around asking if they can pet your animal, the best thing to do is say no. Although this seems mean and we, as animal lovers, enjoy having people experience our animals, you never know what that person has touched before they touch your animal.

What if they have saliva or fecal particles on their hands? Now your animal has been exposed to diseases that you are trying hard to avoid.

When the fair is over

At the end of the fair, we are all very excited to go home and often feel rushed. But it is important that you do not wear the same clothes and shoes when you go home to your animals.

Your shoes have walked all over the fairgrounds, stepping in feces, urine and nasal or oral secretions. If you were to walk into your herd with those shoes, you’d be exposing your animals to everything that all the people at the fair could have possibly brought with them.

Be diligent about keeping your animals safe during the fair. Have fun and good luck!

Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is Associate Veterinarian at Animal Medical Care, based in Brookings, South Dakota

The Vet Report is provided in conjunction with Prairie View Veterinary Clinic with locations in Miller, Redfield, Wessington Springs and Highmore, S.D. Questions? Send an email to owner Eric Knock, DVM, at or write 321 E. 14th St., Miller, SD 57362.

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