HARRISBURG – You’re not the only one who sniffles, doesn’t drink enough water and generally feels a bit stressed by the crowds and noise of the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Some of the more than 5,200 animals at the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show this week feel your pain.
Farm Show animals generally are a healthy lot, said Dr. Cindy Foulke, who, with Dr. Steve LeVan, serves as a Farm Show veterinarian. He has worked at the Farm Show for 16 years while Foulke, who works at the Agricultural Veterinary Associates of Lititz, is in her fifth year. They take care of everything from cows to sheep.
While animals can have a variety of ailments such as colic in horses, digestive upsets in sheep or milk fever in dairy cows, Foulke said that she mostly sees stress-induced illnesses in Farm Show animals.
She said that bringing animals from the relative quiet and privacy of farms to the sprawling and crowded 24-acre Farm Show Complex can be unsettling for livestock. “Some animals go off their feed,” she said. “Some don’t like our water.”
Animals must have a clean bill of health to be on display and compete at the Farm Show. Before setting foot (or hoof) inside the complex, each animal must have a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Certificate of Veterinary Inspection listing the animal’s ear tag, date of birth, sex, breed, vaccination records, TB test status and more.
“The local veterinarian fills out this form within 30 days of the Farm Show,” said Foulke, now in her fifth year as a Farm Show veterinarian. “As people enter with their animals, they present the certificate to the vet check-in stations. They aren’t allowed in without proper certification.”
The Farm Show has veterinarians on call from 8 a.m. to midnight. Foulke said many species, especially alpacas and poultry, rarely need medical help.
“People who bring rabbits and poultry generally handle their animals’ health problems,” she said. “Rabbits show their stress by not wanting to eat or drink the water here. Many rabbits are used to well water. The water here has some chloride in it. Sometimes, rabbits do better with water from home or bottled water.”
Even in frigid weather, many animals prefer the outdoors over the relative warmth of inside the complex. Sheep, for instance, can get “snotty noses” when they are moved inside, Foulke said.
“We get very few calls for swine,” she said, “mostly complaints of them not wanting to eat or drink. If they’re market animals, we don’t give them drugs because they will be sold in a couple days. We do supportive treatment and change their water or feed.”
Horses occasionally need anti-inflammatory injections, Foulke said. She also said that horses who compete in the horse pulls must undergo blood tests after the competition to be sure they aren’t on steroids to enhance their performance.
Goats may have upper respiratory infections. Cattle are most likely to need some veterinary help.
“Cattle have issues because of extremes in temperature,” she said. “If they had their way, it would always be 40 degrees. This year, the weather is wicked cold. Most cattle who have thick hides and hair would rather be outside in the cold than inside where it’s 50 to 60 degrees.”
She said that cattle like the option of shelter in times of bitter winds, snow and temperatures dipping to zero and below.
“Beef cattle at the Farm Show basically eat, drink and are shown,” she said. “Dairy cows also are milked so that adds some extra stress.”
Foulke said that most animal infections don’t transmit to people. Yet, she said, Farm Show visitors should use the hand sanitizing stations throughout the complex and wash their hands before eating.
The bottom line, she said, is to use common sense when it comes to health concerns for both people and animals.