Ensure good health by knowing your animal and remaining alert

Show animal health is important during the year to produce a winner in the end.

In the midst of show season, keeping the animal healthy is every good showman’s priority. Good husbandry is the start to a great show season, according to Scott Hoyle, private practice veterinarian and show dad.

“A healthier environment produces a healthier animal,” said Hoyle. “It’s a combination of clean shavings, clean water and a good appetite.”

Before show season begins, every showman should consider the habitat in which the animal is living. Changing the shavings promotes good air quality and removes bacteria and viruses that could compromise the animal’s health. According to Hoyle, breathing low-quality air increases the likelihood of respiratory infection.

A clean water supply is also important to keep the animal hydrated to help prevent illness.

“If I wouldn’t drink the water, the animal won’t drink it,” said Hoyle.

He encourages his exhibitors to clean and sanitize water buckets daily to remove germs and bacteria. Bleach and water is the best way to ensure all pathogens are eliminated before refilling with fresh, clean water, he said.

Animal appetite can also reveal symptoms of poor health or illness if monitored appropriately.

Karen Reynolds, owner of Pin Oak Club Lambs in Greenbrier, Ark., said showmen should pay close attention when feeding because changes in animal health are often subtle.

“They aren’t always visibly ill,” said Reynolds. “If they aren’t eating, there is an issue.”

When feeding, owners should stay and monitor how much and how fast the animal eats. Irregularity in an animal’s appetite could flag an issue of internal health.

Being alert and aware of the animal is key to a successful show season, said Reynolds. Evaluating the animal every day, multiple times a day, is the best way to learn the animal’s norms. Changes in the animal’s activity, eating habits, water intake and interaction with others are signs to watch for.

If an animal does become ill, it should not be taken to shows until it recovers, because it would present a health risk to all the other animals there, said Hoyle.

“Never put a sick animal in the trailer,” said Hoyle. “Do not show it until it is completely well. If your animal is showing symptoms of illness, quarantine it in a separate area of the barn away from all the other animals. Then treat the animal appropriately according to the illness.”

At livestock shows, being aware of surroundings and strategically penning animals at the show is key, said Reynolds.

If sick animals are in the neighboring pen, exhibitors should try to avoid placing tack or animals near that pen. The show staff will normally check for external symptoms such as fungus, running nose and watery eyes, and a veterinarian should be at each show to periodically monitor the overall quality of health in the barn. 

After the show, animals’ health should be monitored closely.

Using blankets and anti-fungal sprays and maintaining good air quality helps fight off any bacteria or virus contracted at the show.

“Preparing to go and protection is important,” said Reynolds. “But having the mind frame to monitor and defend on the backend is just as vital.”

“It’s a learning process on how to keep them healthy,” said Hoyle.

Making sure they are going to the show healthy and coming home healthy is a showman’s job.

“If they aren’t healthy they won’t perform their best,” said Reynolds.


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