Health checks required
Vesicular stomatitis still a problem in Socorro County
All livestock entered in this year’s Socorro County Fair must be examined by a veterinarian within five days of entering the fairgrounds to be sure no animal exhibits signs of vesicular stomatitis, according to a directive issued on Aug. 23 by Dave E. Fly, New Mexico state veterinarian.
Chickens and rabbits are exempt from the rule, Fly said in a telephone interview Aug. 24.
“Socorro County currently has three or four cases of VS. There are some facilities off quarantine, but there are still new infections,” he said. “All livestock along the Rio Grande are at risk. We still have people presenting animals with lesions at New Mexico events.”
No livestock,including rodeo bucking stock and calves for roping, will be allowed on the fairgrounds without a health certificate issued by a veterinarian.
Local veterinarian Dean Wilkinson will examine all livestock entering the fair for signs of VS starting at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at the gate to the fairgrounds.
“I will check each animal as it arrives for signs, and let them in if they are symptom-free to make sure they haven’t developed lesions between the time of their previous check and entry,” he said.
Owners of animals that don’t get checked on Wednesday will have to present health certificates before their animals will be allowed on the premises, he said.
“Rodeo contractors will come with the certificates,” he said.
“VS affects all hoofed animals, including pigs,” Fly said. “Pigs are amplifiers — they spread the disease very readily.”
Horses, cattle, swine, and to a lesser extent sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas are susceptible to VS.
The disease often starts with drooling and loss of appetite, according to a United States Department of Agriculture fact sheet An examination of the mouth can reveal blister-like lesions. Sometimes, the disease can affect the animal’s feet, causing lameness. Although the disease weakens previously healthy animals, it is typically not fatal.
Only rarely do humans contract VS from infected animals, and it is not considered a significant risk to humans. It causes flu-like symptoms in people, Fly said.
VS is spread mainly by flying insects, such as biting midges, but animals with the virus can spread the disease by direct contact and through items they have touched, such as bits, halters, feeders and drinking water tanks. The incubation period is between two and eight days, he said.
New Mexico authorities have to be vigilant about VS, not only to stop the spread of the disease, but also to prevent other states from imposing further restrictions on the movement of New Mexico animals, he said.
Wilkinson said VS is taken seriously because its signs and symptoms are exactly like a much bigger threat — foot-and-mouth disease, a fatal illness affecting animals and humans that was wiped out in the United States in 1929.
“VS is a disease that cries wolf,” he said. “It resembles foot-and-mouth disease, so people think it’s VS and no big deal, and then foot-and-mouth disease will be spread before we know it. The only way to tell the difference between the two diseases is by lab tests.
“Keeping foot-and-mouth disease out of the U.S. is a major priority. It’s fatal, and humans can get it. There is no vaccine available yet, and no cure. It would be a disaster if we get foot-and-mouth here. And other countries would put an embargo our products.”
4-H livestock exhibitors philosophical about testing
Local 4-H club leader Christina Romero and her daughters Nadya, 13, and Senaida, 11, acknowledge that the new state mandate is requiring them to bring their show steers to the county fairgrounds a day ahead of time for the Vesicular Stomatitis screening check is a bit of a hassle, but they don’t think it’s going to be all that bad.
“It’s a little trouble, a bit time-consuming, but we want them to be in good health. We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Christina Romero said.
She said waiting in the stock trailers to get checked on Wednesday afternoon may be stressful for show animals, but since they will be staying overnight to rest, they will be good to go the next day. Besides, it’s a chance to spend more time with friends at the fair.
“4-H families look forward to getting together,” she said. “A day extra is no big deal.”
Romero leads the San Antonio Mavericks 4-H club, and her daughters are Maverick members.
Nadya agrees with her mother that the early entry is no problem, and maybe a blessing in disguise.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” she said. “It’ll be one more day for the animals to get used to the fair. And we get to stay with friends and family.”
Nadya and Senaida have spent almost 10 months feeding, watering, grooming and training their black Angus steers for this weekend’s county fair competitions where they may have to say good-bye to their animals at the auction.
“It’s kind of sad,” Senaida said. “We get them in November, and they’re really small. And then we work with them and get attached, but this is what we’ve been waiting for all year,”
Both girls have spent many hours caring for their steers. Besides the usual chores, they have been training their steers to get used to being led, taking them for walks on the ditch banks to condition them, and keeping them clean and neat.
But the biggest challenge is to get the steers to “set up” on command, especially when the steer weighs about a half a ton, as Nadya’s steer Buzz did last week.
“The steers don’t always want to cooperate, we want their heads up and their front and back legs about a foot apart. It’s hard, especially when they don’t want to do it,” Nadya said as she tried to get Buzz to move into the correct position.
But both girls were able to get their steers set up in time for a photo shoot.