Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Aurelia Pollard

Veterinarians volunteer at the Boulder County Fair


August 12, 2016

Photo by Karen Copperberg Veterinarian Jessica Rose Johnson (left), of Mountain Rose Mobile Livestock Veterinary Services, checks over goats at the Boulder County Fair. Johnson explained to Stella Dickson (right), of Niwot Nifties 4-H, what the fibers from her Angora fiber goat can be used for and what to look for to ensure its health.

The Boulder County Fair, an end of summer tradition, is an event where everyone can enjoy one last week of fun as they experience the carnival, rodeo, petting zoo, music performances and more.

The fair, which just completed its 147th year, also focuses largely on 4H and FFA (Future Farmers of America). Both organizations specialize in animal husbandry and all animals need to be in top health condition.

Local veterinarians have donated their time since the 1960s to make sure the animals are in top health. Veterinarian Steven Benscheidt, who works at Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic in Longmont, said he’s been volunteering for over three decades.

“It’s for the kids,” Benscheidt said of why he volunteers. “I mean why does anyone donate their time? Kids, 4H—it’s a good program. It’s an ethical donation of your time.”

Benscheidt and five other local veterinarians from Longmont and Boulder, including Tom Rea, Don Owen, Renee Navkervis, John Flinchum and Jess Johnson, inspect each species of animal to ensure they’re healthy.

“We just visually look at them and make sure they’re fine,” Benscheidt said of inspecting the animals. “We don’t do a too thorough exam, because it would be impractical, but we just look for something that looks sick or wouldn’t be right.”

Benscheidt said they inspect a variety of animals including cattle, horses, goats, dogs, alpacas, llamas, chicken, rabbits, sheep, swine and even guinea pigs. Each group of animals is inspected upon registering.

Although it doesn’t happen too often, Benscheidt said if they find something wrong with an animal that was missed by its owner or handler, the vet asks that they don’t participate.

“We do have to ask that some animals do not participate each year,” Benscheidt said. “But it’s very few. Usually if [people] know they have a sick animal they won’t bring it.”

Even if an animal checks out when it enters the fair, Benscheidt explained that “some animals might look good one day and then be sick the next day.” That’s why he’s there every day to walk the stalls.

Throughout the five days that animals enter the fair, each of the five veterinarians will be responsible for certain species.

“No vet is in charge of a specific breed, just different species,” Benscheidt said. “There’s a goat person, a person who will look at the alpacas and a person who will look at the dogs, the guinea pigs and those types of animals.”

Even though Benscheidt has the ability to look at all the species, he said he usually looks at the chickens, because no one else wants to. “Very few people look at chickens,” Benscheidt said. “They don’t have the ability to. There’s only three of us between Denver and Loveland that have the ability to look at livestock.”

Animals that don’t get a clean health check can either be treated on site or may have to go off site for treatment; it just depends on what’s wrong with them. An animal’s participation in the fair comes down to how sick they are and how quickly they can be treated.

“Some things can be treated that day,” Benscheidt said, “Like if you see lice, it can be treated then; it’s not a major concern. But some things are more contagious like pneumonia; they’ll get disqualified.”

In ensuring that only healthy animals are part of the fair, Benscheidt said when the public starts noticing something wrong with them, that’s when he knows they have an issue that needs to be taken care of.

“We’ve had a few years where things go up and down, and come and go,” Benscheidt said of illnesses. “With some of the animals that have gone in, the public’s noticed they have runny noses or respiratory problems. So when the public can see that, that’s not very good for everyone involved.”

Fortunately, he wasn’t too concerned this year about any diseases.

“There’s really no diseases of any concern [this year],” Benscheidt said. “Sometimes there are diseases you’re worried about, but we really don’t have new diseases or recurrent diseases in the area.”

Benscheidt spends about 60 hours volunteering at the fair every year and has been coordinating the other volunteers for about 25 years. Even if it’s not always easy to get other veterinarians to help out, he said it’s worth it to support the kids.

“It’s a matter of helping the kids out and supporting everyone who volunteers their time,” Benscheidt said.


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