Veterinarian keeps an eye on animals at Stutsman County Fair
Veterinarian Dawn Entzminger checks on the animals each day.
JAMESTOWN – When the Stutsman County Fair opens on June 29, there’s a veterinarian on hand to keep an eye on the animals being exhibited.
“I walk through every single morning and check every single animal … just a walk by,” said Dr. Dawn Entzminger of Dr. Dawn’s Pet Stop, who is the veterinarian for the fair. “Obviously, if they look like they’re stressed, I’ll do more of an exam, but otherwise I just do a walk by every single animal and just look and make sure they appear healthy.”
No poultry will be in the show this year. The North Dakota Board of Animal Health extended the cancellation of all shows, public sales, swaps and exhibitions of poultry and other birds in the state as a precaution to reduce the risk of avian influenza exposure to North Dakota birds.
Entzminger said she’s at the fairgrounds at about 6:30 a.m. each day and 4-H’ers are usually there by that time as well, feeding, bathing or grooming their animals, depending on what show is going on that day.
Entzminger is also on call if needed during the fair, she said. She may provide advice over the phone or see the animal at the fair or her office if necessary.
“The health and the welfare of the animals is always our number one concern because the kids work so hard with these animals throughout the year,” said Brenda Jarski-Weber, 4-H program coordinator for NDSU Extension-Stutsman County. “... We want to make sure that they’re kept healthy and that’s why we have a vet and Dr. Dawn is very, very good. .. The health and welfare of the animals is always the first priority.”
Jarski-Weber said about 250 animals are expected to be exhibited this year. Usually, heat is part of the Stutsman County Fair, and the animals are being kept as comfortable as possible, Entzminger said.
“If you look, a lot of them have fans blowing on them, down the rows of cattle or whatever, so they do their best to try to keep that air moving,” she said, referring to larger animals. “They make sure that they have water frequently to try prevent any kind of heat stress. They do have the wash pens … they can take them outside and hose them down with cool water, too, if they’re showing any signs.”
Entzminger noted there are also fans where the smaller animals are located and ice can be added to their water.
“They’re also in a building so it’s not air conditioned, but … they're not in the direct sunlight so the heat isn’t beating down on them or anything like that,” she said. They’re definitely shaded that way.”
She said if it’s really hot, people will see some animals panting and with faster breathing, but that’s how they cool off. It’s their version of sweating.
“They have a great setup with the barns and the fans so they’re out of the direct heat and the people there know how to take care of those animals and protect them,” Entzminger said.
She said the animals at the fair are not usually stressed being in a different environment around a lot of people.
“Most of your 4-H animals have been worked with a lot so they are pretty socialized, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t get a little scared with extra people or weird sounds,” she said. “You can’t train them to know all of the sounds of the fair but they’re pretty tame animals so usually they’re not terribly stressed.”
Entzminger said some animals won’t eat very well if they are more stressed.
“I have in the past, if we find an animal that just isn’t eating or is showing stress symptoms, we’ll excuse them from the fair and let them take them home early,” she said. “Otherwise, we try to keep them there for the public to see. …”
The animals are at the fair for the duration of the event to give people an opportunity to see them and see them in one place, she said.
Entzminger said she served as a judge for more than 20 years at the fair before doing the work as the inspector for the animals at the fair. She said she grew up in 4-H and showed mostly cows. She also showed chickens and bunnies.
“So it’s nice to see, you know, the kids today enjoy the same things that I enjoyed,” she said, as to what she enjoys about being at the fair. “But also animals are my job and I like being around all those animals.”
Entzminger noted that the 4-H’ers care about their animals too.
“Really, honestly, these kids love these animals to death,” she said. “They’re as much pets as they are livestock. For most of them, they have a strong attachment to them. Now that doesn’t mean that they don’t know that livestock animals are raised for certain purposes, but you’ll see a lot of the 4-H’ers pretty sad if they have to give up their animal. They understand but they’ve also created a pretty strong attachment to those animals. They love those animals. Almost every one has names.”
Older 4-H members help the younger 4-H members with the animals as well, Entzminger said.
“They teach each other just the way they were taught when they were the new 4-H’er so they’re very helpful to each other too in sort of passing down that knowledge and what to do and how to do it,” she said. “That’s part of what 4-H is.”