Experts warn owners to keep an eye on their livestock during fair

Despite shady enclosures, temps continue to rise, so does the risk of heat stress

As the Washington County and Henry County Fairs brings animals of all shapes, sizes and species to the fairgrounds, and the heat intensifies, owners will need to be on the lookout for heat stress.

Amy Green, 4-H youth coordinator for Washington County, states that the fairgrounds have wide and shaded enclosures that should keep the animals cool. She also predicts that the children who take care of these animals are well up to the task of being theoretical lifeguards for their prize beasts.

“In the nine years I’ve worked here, we’ve lost one animal and it was in the poultry department,” Green said.

That day, a 4-H member lost an animal, which caused the Iowa Fair Board to re-evaluate how long the participants would be forced to keep their animals at the grounds. The heat that year, made the board contemplate sending these animals home early.

“Evaluate your cattle in the morning and again in the afternoon to make sure they are coping with the heat,” Iowa State University Iowa Beef Center bulletin reported in June. “Make sure cattle have access to plenty of fresh water and provide shade or sprinklers if possible.”

Green believes these kids are vigilant enough to make sure that losing an animal never happens again. The kids know which symptoms to be looking out for. If a cow is panting and can’t seem to catch its breath, ite might need water or a spray-down. If a bird is opening its wings as wide as they go, they probably are trying to air out. These are subtle exhaustion signs that Green is confident her kids are going to be able to spot.

“4-H is a family and most people get to know the members really well by the end of it,” Green said.

Green preaches that 4-H and the overall fair community is very close-knit and can and will help other animals if they see they are in peril. Knowing this, Green does maintain that there is one important concept in keeping your animals alive.

“Watch your own animals,” Green said. “Your own animals are the most important.”

The Iowa Beef Center encourages animal owners to also specifically keep an eye on their cattle who just finished a feeding period or those with a history of respiratory disease. The center, in addition, has posted a ‘Heat Stress Checklist’ for those who want to develop a system for keeping their cattle comfortable and alive.

“Cattle do not handle heat stress as well as humans,” Dee Griffin, Beef Production Management Veterinarian, wrote. “Young animals have a narrow comfort zone between 45 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.”