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University of Minnesota Extension

Minimizing stress on animals at the fair

Source: Allison Wright, University of Minnesota Extension intern - McLeod and Meeker Counties

As fair season is approaching, it is a good time to create discussion around the stress animals could face at the fair, and how to reduce stress factors. It all starts with the animal trusting its handler. Training the animal before the fair creates a bond of trust between the handler and the animal. This is the underlying factor for the animal to feel calm and safe at the fair. 

After your animal is trained and the trust was earned between the handler and the animal, the next step is prepping the animal for how it will be fed at the fair. An example of this is, two weeks before the fair start using the same pails and buckets that you will use to feed and water the animal at the fair. This will help the animal have less of a shift when they go to the fair, because they will feel comfortable eating out of the buckets and pails. 

Now that the animal is comfortable with its handler and water/feed buckets, it is time to think about how transporting the animals will work, and their environment at the fair. 

One thing to keep in mind when transporting animals is trailer preparation, trailer comfort, and then the loading/unloading process. First, before the animal goes into the trailer, the trailer should be clean, and have fresh shavings down as bedding. Never straw because it regulates and traps heat. The animal itself should be well hydrated before it goes on the trailer.

The next step is transporting them in the coolest part of the day, either morning or night. This will help reduce the heat in the trailer. Before adding the animals, take a look at the towing capacity of the truck and trailer that will be used for hauling. Then, it is time to add the animals to the trailer. Hauling as few animals as possible will help with ventilation in the trailer. Keep all of the ventilation holes in the trailer open. 

Finally, once the animals are at the fair, open the trailer door and take the animals out calmly. Remember some of the animals have never seen the fairgrounds before, give them time to look around and take in the new building they will be housed in. 

When stalling the animals, stand where they will be standing. Do you feel airflow? If not, adding a fan as a source for ventilation is recommended. This will create air movement for people and animals to help remove heat and lower heat stress. 

Even with taking steps to manage heat stress on the animals, it might still happen. According to Michigan State University Extension, signs of heat stress include:

  • Panting or open-mouth breathing 
  • Foaming around the mouth 
  • Increased respiration 
  • Increased heart rate
  • And no interest in food or water 

If the animal is experiencing heat stress there are a few options that will help reduce that. Make sure the animal is drinking lots of water. Cooling the animal off with water is an option, but only get the animal wet on the legs and underbelly, so the animal doesn’t go into shock which will make the condition worse. Next, don’t move the animal or create any additional stress around the animal, stay calm. If the animal doesn’t improve, contact the local veterinarian on site. Keep in mind animals with past health problems can be more affected by heat stress than animals with no prior health problems. 

For any questions regarding minimizing stress on animals at the fair, contact your local extension office. For information about this or any livestock-related topic, please reach out to your local Extension Educator. Residents in Wright, Meeker and McLeod counties can email ande9495@umn.edu or call 320-484-4303. 

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