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Jul 13, 2022

This week, your host is joined by Dr. Tara Urbano, DVM from UC Davis!


Dr. Tara Urbano is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from UC Davis. She has an extensive background in livestock practice, including reproductive health, preventive medicine, and food safety. She attended UC Davis, earning a BS in Animal Science (2011) and DVM (2016) as well as completing a clinical residency. She achieved Diplomacy in the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine in 2019.


Originally from Reedley, CA, Dr. Urbano was involved in FFA with swine, caprine, poultry, and equine projects; and served as Resident Shepherd at the UC Davis Sheep Facility during her undergraduate studies. Currently, she is a Staff Veterinarian for the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's Livestock Reproduction and Herd Health service, where she serves as a clinician for a diverse client base that includes youth showman, seedstock and show animal producers, backyard operations, large-scale commercial operations, and many fairs throughout Northern California. In her spare time, Dr. Urbano enjoys camping, yoga, reading, and hiking with her labrador.

Christina and Dr. Urbano discuss the work of veterinarians and their work at the fairs. Dr. Urbano shares her enthusiasm for working with the showmen and their animals and offers some tips to make sure you have your animal fit for public display and human consumption before you bring it to the fair.

Listen in to learn about the role of veterinarians at the county fair.


Topics of Discussion:

[:45] Christina McFarling welcomes you to this episode of The County Fair Podcast and introduces her guest, Dr. Tara Urbano, DVM from UC Davis. Christina shares Tara’s bio.

[2:01] Christina welcomes Dr. Urbano to the podcast.

[2:25] Dr. Urbano shares how she chose veterinary medicine. It started with agriculture and FFA. By college, she knew she wanted to be a livestock vet.

[3:23] Dr. Urbano joined FFA in her freshman year. She took AgEd courses in high school.


[4:35] High School Ag Ed gave her experience in learning by doing in labs and outdoor classes, not sitting in a classroom all the time. On day one, she learned to castrate pigs. There were plenty of hands-on activities to draw her in.

[5:10] Dr. Urbano continues with the learn-by-doing style as she teaches fourth-year senior clinical veterinary students.

[5:58] The Big Fresno Fair is the local fair for Dr. Urbano. Growing up, she brought market swine, breeding sows, and gelts. The equine projects were marketed through a horse trainer; she made a commission. For poultry, she sold eggs out of the Ag Science Department. There were early morning and late afternoon hours but it was a lot of fun and she wouldn’t change it.

[7:11] While raising animals, participants think about the future; making wholesome, safe food for our population, and being ambassadors of their industry for the general public.

[8:13] Dr. Urbano talks about her responsibilities at the fair. Health inspections at check-in at County. For the state fair, she does drug residue testing and reviews drug declaration forms, making sure the animals have followed appropriate withdrawal intervals on any medications they have been given to make sure they are suitable to be harvested at the end of the fair.

[8:49] Dr. Urbano often ends up doing some veterinary care, depending on what happens during the fair. Occasionally an animal will injure itself or get sick.

[9:19] Dr. Urbano sees client animals sometimes before the show. She advises showmen starting projects to connect with a veterinarian now in case there would be an issue along the way or at the fair that requires veterinary care. Also, to read through the fair board’s published health rules and requirements so they can monitor their animal daily and address issues on time.


Cattle, Swine, and Poultry

[12:14] When vets check beef, swine, and poultry for health requirements, they are looking for infectious diseases; anything that’s contagious, including zoonotic diseases that can pass between different species of animals and to humans. They do not want these coming into public display.

[13:00] Vets are also looking for unsightly conditions; anything that would cause a member of the public who isn’t around livestock very often to ask about the condition. It may be harmless to the animal, but we’re trying to put our best foot forward, such as a bad sunburn peeling on a pig. It is fit for human consumption, but not for public display.

[14:20] Any condition that may make the animal unfit for human consumption, such as an animal that is very sick. Dr. Urbano hasn’t had to address this, but it’s something she teaches her students to look for as they’re checking animals for the fair.

[14:51] Dr. Urbano barely needs to put her hands on swine. For all species, she prefers to look at them coming off the trailer, before they go into the showgrounds to make sure that they’re free of disease and fit for show and consumption. This is especially important at shows that have breeding animals.

[15:23] Animals that are going to be harvested after the fair will not return to their farm of origin where there are other animals. Breeding animals go to the fair for a week or two and then they go home. The vets want to make sure those breeding animals are not going to get infected at the fair and return home to other animals. They want your animals at home to be safe.


Swine Again

[16:12] Dr. Urbano gives a visual inspection. She doesn’t want to stress them in the heat, but to let them into their pen to cool off as soon as possible. She looks at the skin for a bad sunburn, bad fighting wounds, depending on how far they are healed; unsightly things like unhealed chewed ears and tails, unhealed castration sites, and big open scabs, even if not infected.

[17:43] Dr. Urbano rarely sees ringworm on pigs. Dr. Urbano looks at the swine’s eyes, nose, and mouth checking for major “crusties.” They make sure there is not a lot of coughing, no rectal prolapses hanging out, visible prolapse repairs, or burst veins.

[19:01] Christina talks about responsibility. For some people, this is their only interaction with these breeds. Putting the breed’s best foot forward and showing the public how wonderful and fit these animals are is important. Dr. Urbano says people have a steak at home and once a year they see a steer at the fair, and that’s their connection. It should be a good connection.

[20:03] Dr. Urbano also looks for severe lameness. That’s rare. Few animals come to the fair lame. She looks for anything odd or that could be infectious; she may send them to the wash rack to cool down. Once they’re relaxed she’ll give them a good hands-on exam.


Sheep and Goats

[20:34] Dr. Urbano says ringworm is the big one to look for. Ringworm is largely ignored for jackpot shows, which are not public. For the county fairs, the vets worry about zoonotic diseases. They want to make sure the public doesn’t carry disease back home to their family members, especially if they’re immunocompromised.

[21:29] Sore mouth, (orf) or scabs on the mouth, is another disease they watch for that is contagious to people. Diarrhea is also contagious. Rectal prolapse is sometimes seen. If it’s been repaired, it should be healed; no “pursestrings” of “bow.” They look at eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. They check for pinkeye that could be contagious to other animals.

[24:04] There should be no severe “crusties” on eyes, or nose. They check for Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) abscesses or cysts. If a cyst ruptures, other animals could bring CL home. So animals with cysts don’t get to stay at the fair. You or your veterinarian can see this ahead of time. If it is treated, healed, and scarred over before the fair, it is OK.

[26:22] Dr. Urbano hates sending animals home because of the chance of contagion. She hopes this advice will help you check the health of your animals weeks ahead of the fair and figure out a plan for any problems to be treated and healed before the fair. She advises all her clients and students to think ahead and do this.

How Dr. Urbano Works With Showmen

[27:28] Dr. Urbano is trying to work with UC extension agents to put together information for 4H and FFA clubs and range organizations to have ahead of time. Dr. Urbano contacted County Fair Podcast to get the word out. Dr. Urbano doesn’t want to send anyone home from the fair. Showmen should know who to call beforehand or who to ask if there are questions.

[29:14] FFA advisors can call Dr. Urbano. She can’t give medical advice over the phone without having a client-veterinarian relationship so they can visit in person or bring the animal in, but she is happy to answer questions by phone about things and help them interpret fair rules if they need it over the phone, to know what to look for.

[29:48] Christina visualizes the kids bringing a list of fair rules home, asking their mom to translate it for them, and the mom realizing she needs help interpreting the rules. Dr. Urbano wants to take the rules document and make it digestible for different ages.

[30:24] Dr. Urbano is the only veterinarian on the board of Youth for the Quality Care of Animals for junior showmen. They are doing a curriculum review and she is trying to make sure that health information is digestible for all ages. The junior showman can be from under eight to high school seniors. The curriculum gets adjusted as they move through the years.

[31:24] Dr. Urbano is not doing anything secret at the fair. She wants everyone to know what she’s looking for and why it’s important. Christina notes how important the veterinarian health inspection is for the showmen at the fair, and also, that it must be rewarding for Dr. Urbana, to invest in future veterinarians as she practices and teaches.

[32:42] Dr. Urbano gets to teach everyone from vet students to undergrads, to junior showmen and clients. The teaching and outreach part of her job is a lot of fun.

[33:09] Dr. Urbano checks for unsightly things like very large warts or multiple warts. One or two warts on the face or neck are not a problem. When they become unsightly, it is a problem.


Poultry and Small Animals

[33:42] The state inspector usually comes in for these. It’s usually the same person who does processing plant inspections. They’re looking for bumblefoot and other foot diseases, They’re looking for contagious diseases like avian influenza, which has a big outbreak now. They look for facial swellings and nose and eye discharges.
[34:27] They look for symptoms like coughing and mucous in the mouth. These diseases are very contagious. They don’t want infectious diseases like avian influenza or Newcastle disease at the fair. They look for keel wounds.
[35:14] For rabbits and cavies, they look for bumblefoot lesions, discharges, hemorrhagic diarrhea, or snuffles coming from the nose.

The Inspection

[35:49] Dr. Urbano explains how the inspections work with various fair schedules. Multiple veterinarians and vet students come in for a big inspection at the unloading space. In some fairs, Dr. Urbano inspects the animals one by one over the scale, usually spending less than a minute per animal.

[37:36] Dr. Urbano often gets a stack of health records to review after the visual inspection and if there is anything she needs to address, she will go find them and chat.
[38:28] The veterinarians are there to support the showmen, the show, the public health, and food safety. Dr. Urbano wants the showmen to have healthy animals to sell, to enjoy themselves, and to have a good experience.


[39:41] Dr. Urbano shares a favorite fair memory. It was her first pig, her freshman year of high school. On day one, she has her pig out, around the softball field trying to practice and the pig runs off. She’s chasing it with her stick held high. Her advisor’s husband told her, ‘You need to calm down or you’re going to kill your pig!’ She was high-strung, but she learned to hold it in.

[41:09] That’s the biggest lesson she learned from showing, calm down! She learned it the first day. It’s helped her with so many things!

[41:48] Christina thanks Urbano for sharing her wisdom with The County Fair Podcast!


Mentioned in this Episode:


The Big Fresno Fair

Zoonotic diseases

Ringworm in sheep

Orf in Sheep

Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL)


UC Extension

Youth for the Quality Care of Animals


Avian Influenza in birds

Newcastle disease in birds

Snuffles in rabbits


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Dr. Tara Urbano