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Dr. John Gilliam discusses the importance of having an emergency preparedness plan ahead of livestock shows. Photo by Taylor Bacon

Livestock show preparation: Making emergency response plans

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Media Contact: Taylor Bacon | Communications Specialist | 405-744-6728 |

As exhibitors prepare for show season, it is important to develop a plan for how to handle any livestock emergencies that may arise. Having a plan in place prior to the show ensures quick action and timely care should an emergency happen.

Seeking veterinary assistance

“The most important part of an emergency plan for livestock shows is to know how and where to seek veterinary assistance before an issue occurs,” said Dr. John Gilliam, a clinical professor of food animal production medicine and field service at the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine (OSU CVM).

Many larger shows have a veterinarian on-site to provide emergency care. If a show does not have a veterinarian on-site, know ahead of time what off-site veterinarian you will use for emergencies.

If the show is local, exhibitors should contact their regular veterinarian ahead of time to see if he or she is available for emergencies and develop a plan if assistance is needed. If the show is out of town, show officials should be able to provide a list of local veterinarians that can be contacted. If possible, contacting these clinics ahead of time to confirm their availability for emergency service may save time and frustration.

Keep in mind that while the show may pay the veterinarian to be on-site, this likely won’t include fees for veterinary services rendered in the case of an emergency. Be prepared for potential extra costs for these services.

Preventing health emergencies

Many potential emergencies pertain to animal health and can be prevented with the proper precautions.

“Make sure animals are healthy and are current on vaccinations before the show,” Gilliam said. “Ensure each animal has also received an appropriate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) prior to transport to the show.”

While it can be difficult to avoid contact with other animals at shows, exhibitors should work to minimize contact as much as possible. Exhibitors should also avoid making any changes to an animal’s diet while at the show. Bloat and diarrhea are common health problems that can develop at shows when animals undergo stress and diet changes. 

How to handle a sick animal

“If you are at the show and you notice that your animal is not acting like it usually would, it is a good idea to get an examination by a veterinarian,” said Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, director of continuing education and beef cattle extension specialist at the CVM.

Show officials should be contacted before moving the animal as specific protocols may be needed to avoid risk to other animals or people.

“If you’re dealing with something that’s infectious, you definitely want to have a discussion with show management so that appropriate measures can be taken to isolate and deal with any potential transmission that’s already occurred,” Biggs said.

Removing any animals that develop a potentially contagious illness protects the animal’s health, as well as the health of other animals at the show.

Medications at a show

Exhibitors may bring various medications with them to the show, however, an animal deemed in need of antibiotic treatment at the show should be removed from the show grounds.

“Most medications administered to livestock have a withdrawal period or a period of time that must elapse between administration of the medication and marketing of the animal for food production purposes,” Gilliam said.

“This is required to reduce the risk of medication residues in food products. Always consider the withdrawal period before administering any medication to an animal, particularly if the show is a terminal show.”

Any questions regarding withdrawal time should be directed to a veterinarian. Additionally, some shows may prohibit the use of certain medications, so always be sure to consult the show rules before administering medication to an animal.  

While livestock emergencies at a show are uncommon, they can occur, and it is best to be prepared. Good preparation ahead of time can greatly reduce the impact of such emergencies should they arise. Speak with your veterinarian about establishing an emergency preparedness plan for your next livestock show.

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