HARRISBURG – Farm Show animals tend to be a pretty healthy lot, sometimes healthier than visitors to the agricultural extravaganza.
No wonder. Many of these animals have been bred, fed and groomed their whole lives to compete in Pennsylvania’s version of a state fair. Dr. Cindy Foulke, who, with Dr. Steve LeVan, serves as a 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show veterinarian, said that she’s not expecting any new diseases at this year’s show.
The eight-day Farm Show runs through 5 p.m. Saturday in the state Farm Show Complex at Cameron and Maclay streets. Admission is free while parking is $15 a vehicle.
“The weather is consistent this year, which is good for the animals,” said Foulke, who works for Agricultural Veterinary Associates of Lititz. “It’s been warmer and wetter than usual, but as long as there aren’t wide swings in temperatures, it’s OK.”
This year’s Farm Show features about 5,200 animals including swine, sheep, poultry, dairy cattle, beef cattle, goats, rabbits and alpacas. The Farm Show requires animals to be healthy before they are allowed in the door.
Each must have a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Certificate of Veterinary Inspection filled out by their own veterinarian within 30 days of the Farm Show, listing the animal’s ear tag, date of birth, sex, breed, vaccination records, TB test status and more.
Owners must give the certificates to the veterinarians checking them in. They are refused entry without proper certification. She said that animals also are visually inspected for clinical illnesses, ringworms, warts and parasites. Each species can have different health issues.
“Horses usually come in healthy, but we look for skin problems or hair loss, which can indicate exterior parasites,” she said. “If that’s the case, we usually send them home. Horses also can get colic, respiratory distress, viruses or bacterial infections. We have a barn for quarantine in case someone is from far away, like Erie, has other animals to show and can’t get the sick horse home.”
Horses don’t have many injuries during the Farm Show, Foulke said, but they get stressed due to crowds and different water. Farm Show water may be more chlorinated than horses prefer.
Horses that compete in the horse pulls must undergo blood tests after the competition to be sure they aren’t on steroids to enhance their performance.
Beef cattle are pretty hardy but most prefer to be outside overnight rather than inside where it’s 50 to 60 degrees.
Dairy cattle produce milk during the Farm Show and can get mastitis, an infection of the mammary glands. “Dairy cattle get more stressed than beef cattle because they are working to produce up to 80 pounds of milk a day,” Foulke said.
The Calving Corner, Pennsylvania’s Dairy Cow Birthing Center at the Farm Show, tends to have its own veterinarians. Cows also are born in the North Hall.
Hogs are at the Farm Show the shortest time of any livestock and generally have no health problems. This year, they were judged on Thursday. The Supreme Champion swine was named on Friday, then the hogs were sold the day before the Farm Show even opened. The junior market swine show was on Sunday.
Sheep can get “snotty noses” or fevers while goats can experience upper respiratory infection, Foulke said. Boar goats can have skin infections, while dairy goats could get mastitis.
Foulke said poultry, rabbits and alpacas generally are healthy, although rabbits do better with drinking water from home or bottled water rather than Farm Show water. The Farm Show veterinarians are on call from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Veterinarians also educate the public, Foulke said.
“Last year, people asked me why goat owners cut the ears off their goats,” she said. “I had to tell them that they were looking at Lamancha goats, a breed which has very small ears. One person came to me and said she saw a camel. I told her that she saw an alpaca, which has a long neck but no hump. We don’t have camels at the Farm Show!”