Home Livestock show managers and exhibitors need to practice biosecurity

Livestock show managers and exhibitors need to practice biosecurity


newspaperDr. Richard Wilkes, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), reminds livestock and poultry owners and show managers that there is the potential for animal disease spread when animals are commingled.

Hoof and Mouth Disease of livestock, Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy of horses, Avian Influenza of poultry and Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) of pigs are all examples of diseases that can spread quickly. PED has resulted in the deaths of many pigs across the country in recent years; strict biosecurity is the most effective and most practical way to prevent the spread of PED and many other livestock and poultry diseases.

Wilkes encourages every person involved in showing livestock to enhance their biosecurity efforts. “We always urge livestock owners who show animals and managers of show and exhibition facilities to keep biosecurity uppermost in their minds,” Wilkes said, “but with swine, it is even more important now with the emergence of PED. Good biosecurity can help keep the disease from spreading.”

Anytime animals are co-mingled at events, there is a risk they may be exposed to an infectious disease agent. Some states have cancelled pre-show weigh-ins or other animal commingling events to try to prevent PED infection of swine. Virginia show managers may want to consider voluntarily cancelling some of the higher risk activities.

The PED virus is highly contagious, and commonly spreads through pig manure. Consuming pork continues to be safe and the disease does not affect humans, but is often deadly to piglets. Practicing and implementing sound biosecurity measures is critical in keeping the state’s animals disease free and marketable.

Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy is another highly contagious disease that has caused severe neurologic signs and death at multiple equine events across the country recently.

Wilkes says that good biosecurity and advance planning will reduce the chances of spreading an infectious disease by people, animals, shoes and clothing or equipment. Show managers should have a proper biosecurity plan ready to execute in the event that an animal disease is introduced at a major stock show or event.

VDACS offers the following guidelines to help minimize risk at events where animals co-mingle. Note that these general recommendations also apply to diseases that can be spread between humans and animals.


Biosecurity for animal exhibitors:

  • Consult your veterinarian to establish an appropriate vaccination program for your livestock prior to attending an event.
  • Before stalling your animal at an event, make sure the stall has been cleaned and disinfected and use clean, fresh bedding.
  • Minimize direct contact with other animals.
  • Use your own water and feed buckets. Avoid letting your animal(s) drink from a communal water trough. Fill water buckets from a faucet, not a shared tank.
  • For equines, do not share grooming equipment or tack. If you must, then wash and disinfect it before returning to your own animal(s).
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling other animals to minimize the risk of transferring a disease back to your animal.
  • Before returning home from an event, clean and disinfect your equipment (boots, tack, grooming supplies, buckets, etc.) to help reduce the risk of transporting an infectious agent back home.
  • Isolate your returning animal(s) for 2 weeks or prevent contact with your other animals and watch for signs of illness in all of your animals.
  • When you come home from a fair/exhibition be sure to disinfect your trailer.
  • Consult your veterinarian concerning these and other steps you can follow which may reduce the risk of your animal acquiring an infectious disease while traveling.


Biosecurity for event organizers:

  • Minimize contact between animals where possible.
  • Minimize spread by human hands (limit public access, provide hand sanitizer, establish restricted areas in front of stalls and trailers, post hand-washing signs).
  • Minimize spread by shared tack (post signs advising participants not to share equipment).
  • Where practical, provide solid, high-walled stalls to minimize spread of infectious nasal droplets.


Biosecurity when visiting an animal exhibit such as a fair or petting zoo:

  • Locate hand-washing stations and use them often. Always wash your hands after petting animals or touching the animal enclosure, especially before eating and drinking.
  • Use running water and soap whenever possible. Use hand gels if running water and soap are not available.
  • Keep food and drinks out of animal areas.
  • Never allow children to put their hands or objects such as pacifiers in their mouths while interacting with animals.


“Livestock exhibitions are an enriching and rewarding experience for our youth,” said Dr. Wilkes. “Implementing simple biosecurity measures to prevent disease spread and having an established plan of action to address disease outbreaks if they occur protects that experience for the public, exhibitors and event managers alike.”

For more information about biosecurity measures and plans, contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at 804.692.0601 or your local Office of Veterinary Services at the Regional Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory in your area. See the Laboratory Services section of the VDACS website for local numbers.

VDACS posts all of its news releases on Facebook and Twitter. To receive immediate updates, follow us on Twitter @VaAgriculture or like us on facebook.com/VaAgriculture.



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