By: Dr. Tony Forshey, DVM
Chief, Division of Animal Health
If you ask most 4-H exhibitors, I bet they can recite the 4-H Pledge without hesitation. It’s a great motto for young people to use in their daily lives. There’s one part that’s very important to public health leaders like myself, “and my health to better living…”
Healthy people and animals are my concern at the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Our Division of Animal Health works to safeguard the health of all animals in Ohio and the people with whom they come in contact. Animals can carry diseases like influenza, cryptosporidium and salmonella that can be transmitted to humans, but can also be easily prevented with proper biosecurity steps like proper hand washing. This time of year, this message is especially critical to 4-H exhibitors preparing for this summer’s county and independent fairs. The next few weeks and months are when boys and girls across Ohio will choose the animals they take as 4-H projects. For many, this includes a visit to a farm to pick out their animal and then transporting it back to their home. This is an important time for 4-Hers to remember their pledge and practice simple, yet important, biosecurity measures.
Any and every time someone touches an animal, they should wash their hands. Exhibitors shouldn’t wear barn shoes or clothes in their house. If a trip to check out a steer, or buy a pig includes a visit to another farm, wash clothes and shoes or wear disposable boots and coveralls. 4-H exhibitors should always have a relationship with a veterinarian and if their new project shows any signs of illness, contact that vet right away.
Ohio’s county and independent fairs and the 4-H projects showcased there are a magnificent part of our state’s agricultural heritage and future. The young people who dedicate months to raise an animal are the future of Ohio’s largest industry, food and agriculture. I want all exhibitors to be able to practice what they say in the 4-H Pledge (and my health to better living) and urge 4-Hers young and old to remember biosecurity as they find their animals and start their journey this fair season.