By Katie Ockert
One of the most overlooked practices among animal owners is daily observation. Daily observation will help owners properly monitor their animal’s health and wellbeing. We often get caught up in the routine of making sure our animals have feed and water and forget to examine some other equally important things that are happening in our barns.
First, know the signs and symptoms of a sick animal as they are key in monitoring the animal’s overall health. Animal owners develop a baseline knowledge for each animal and how they act and react during interactions. Mentally taking note of a few things can help you be aware of how your animal may be feeling. Michigan State University Extension suggests noting the following observations:
- Are your animals’ eyes bright?
- Is your animal alert?
- Is your animal up and moving around with normal locomotion or laying down?
- Is there anything that seems abnormal in your animal’s behavior that would make you question if they are feeling normal?
Second, inspect the animal thoroughly daily for cuts, abrasions, rashes, fungus and external parasites. It is important to make it a daily habit to individually inspect each animal for any injuries. It is a skill that may take time to develop, but after it has become part of a routine, you will find the time it takes decreases. With tame animals, it is always helpful to have an individual interaction with them where you can run your hands over their top lines, down their legs and under their bellies. This will allow you to have a good look at the animals’ body up close. During this time, you can address any issues such as an unexplained lameness, cut or abrasion.
It is essential to monitor daily intake of water and feed. Typically, an animal losing its appetite and becoming lethargic is the first symptom of illness and a cue for owners to contact their veterinarian. When you are aware of what the animal or herd normally consumes, this will give you clues of additional body characteristics to look for when you are inspecting the animal. For example, if you observe the water tank is not as empty as it typically is at evening or morning chore time, indicating animals aren’t drinking appropriately, you can check each animal for classic signs of dehydration such as sunken sides and poor capillary refill.
Daily observation of our animals is the most important, yet most overlooked, task animal owners can do to help keep their stock healthy.