Revisiting your rural roots is a great educational adventure; just make sure you take time to prepare yourself and your family for interactions with animals.Sometimes excitement can overshadow safety for both attendees and the animals.
Often, children don't view livestock as "dangerous". The size differences between children and livestock, animals' and children's unpredictability, and children's lack of knowledge about these farm creatures can put them in harm's way.
Animals and humans view their surroundings very differently. Humans see in color, while livestock in shades of grey and livestock generally have poor depth perception. Most animals can see wide angles around them, but have a blind spot (area they cannot see) near the hindquarters. Horses also have a blind spot directly in front of them. When approaching or around livestock, be aware of these blind spots – movement in these areas should be avoided as it makes animals uneasy and nervous.
Animals also have extremely sensitive hearing – loud and high-frequency sounds can hurt their ears.
"Sharp loud sounds can surprise and provoke the tamest of animals," says Dr. Rebecca Brotzman, associate outreach specialist for The Dairyland Initiative.
Livestock with young generally exhibit strong maternal instincts and will protect and defend their young. Be alert around livestock.
Cattle exhibited at fairs can weigh over 1,500 pounds and some large, equine breeds up to a ton (2,000 pounds). Make sure you keep yourself and your family at a safe distance – including strollers.
"Keep small children from walking under tall cattle or horses, and be careful to mind where your child's stroller is when around livestock." explains Dr. Brotzman.Even though an animal looks friendly, they need to be approached and treated with respect. Ask the owner for permission to approach or touch an animal.
"Livestock exhibitors enjoy the opportunity to show their animals and talk with fairgoers. With just a few simple precautions, you and your family can be sure to have a lot of fun at the fair!" she says.
When around animals:
• Ask for permission to approach or touch an animal• Be calm, move slowly• Avoid loud noises• Avoid hind legs• Approach large animals at the shoulder• Avoid animals with newborns• Avoid stallions, bulls, rams and boars
Keeping clean and healthy during your animal adventure
It is important to remember that animals sometimes carry germs that are harmful to humans, making them sick. To significantly reduce the transmission of these germs and zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans), the Centers for Disease Control advise the following:
Hand-washing• Find out where hand-washing stations are located.• Always wash your hands after petting animals or touching the animal enclosure, especially before eating and drinking.• Running water and soap are best. Use hand gels if running water and soap are not available
Food and drinks• Keep food and drinks out of animal areas.• Do not share your food with animals.• Do not eat or drink raw (unpasteurized) dairy products.
Children• Children younger than 5 years old need supervision• Never allow children to put their hands or objects (For example: pacifiers) in their mouth while interacting with animals.• Hand washing should be supervised.
Now that you've covered safety on the way to the fair, you can enjoy this family friendly, annual animal adventure!
Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association 2801 Crossroads Drive, Suite 1200 | Madison, WI 53718 | Phone: (608) 257-3665 | Fax: (608) 257-8989
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