Livestock Shows & Drug Testing: Procedures & best practices Back »

Written collaboratively by Heidi Carroll and Hilary Rossow.


Animal Care Wednesday Webinars
Husbandry Practices in the Spotlight

State and county livestock shows may require drug testing of exhibited animals to ensure a level playing field and food safety. During the May 4th Animal Care Wednesday Webinar, Mike Anderson, Iowa State University’s State 4-H Livestock Program Specialist, shared his experience with youth livestock shows, and provided practical procedures and best practices for individuals implementing, or considering drug testing for livestock shows. This webinar provided a great follow-up to last month’s discussion of Show Animals: Challenges at the Packer.

To Test or Not to Test?

Drug testing of show animals is not a new concept, but one that may raise questions from exhibitors or the public. Drug testing provides fairs and shows some advantages:

  • Provide a level playing field with equal opportunities for everyone to succeed
  • Be proactive on issues instead of reactive
  • Establish trust with all livestock industry partners, including packers

However, despite these advantages, there are challenges that need to be considered when deciding to drug test:

  • Cost of each test adds up quickly. The basic screening test is $125-$150 with the more in-depth tests around $300 or more.
  • Disciplinary actions need to be set and an enforcing board or organization need to be determined.
    • Will these be based on number of offenses (1st or repeat), the level of drug detected, or some other measure?
    • Will it be the fair board, State 4-H Office, or some other governing body?

As Anderson further explained, “Have a good process.” He stressed the importance of planning ahead. Clearly inform all people (parents, youth, show staff, and volunteers) BEFORE fair time about the rules, testing procedures, and appeal process. Additionally, contact the testing laboratory that will be used well in advance to get cost estimates and order testing supplies. Remember that urine samples require different supplies than blood samples, so prepare all necessary items to protect the integrity of the samples. Follow appropriate storage recommendations for all samples once they are collected.


Urine sample collector.

Details to Consider

Choosing to drug test is a big decision for livestock shows and comes with extra tasks to ensure accurate results and proper procedures. Exhibitors have a responsibility to complete any and all required animal care disclosures, or drug affidavits, along with their animal registration paperwork. While at the fair, any treatments given to an animal should be properly documented according to fair policy; this may mean that only the official fair veterinarian is permitted to treat the animal.

When collecting samples, it is important to have all people involved present and sign the paperwork. This includes parents or guardians, youth exhibitor, and the sample collector. Once the samples have been collected and stored properly, it is also important to have documented any person that handles or transports the samples to the laboratory, called a chain of custody.

If there is a positive test, be aware of what is considered legal for each drug and each species. All disciplinary action should be in writing and clearly communicated with the violator. The appeal process should also be communicated with a definitive timeline and whom the final deciding body will be, whether this is 4-H, fair board, or an Extension Council.

Reminders for South Dakota 4-H Livestock

The current policy regarding drug testing at the South Dakota State Fair is as follows:

As a condition for participation in the State Fair, all 4-H animals will be subject to random testing for foreign substances by the State Veterinarian, and the conclusion reached by the veterinarian as to whether such animal is unethically presented shall be final, without recourse against the State Fair or any of its officers. (2016 SDSU Extension 4-H State Fair Book)

Testing may also be done based on suspicion of unauthorized drugging of animals. All drugs administered on the State Fairgrounds must be done by a licensed veterinarian.

More Information

For South Dakotans interested in learning more about the 4-H livestock show policies and procedures, please contact Hilary Rossow or the State Fair Board. Additional information can be found in the SD 4-H Fair Book, which can be downloaded at the State Fair page on iGrow.

If you have questions about Iowa’s drug testing procedures for livestock shows, contact Mike Anderson.

For more information on upcoming Animal Care Wednesday Webinars, please contact Heidi Carroll. To view this and past webinars, please visit the animal care resource website.

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