4H youth prep for fair and keep livestock cool

by Chabella Guzman, Communications Spec I University of Nebraska–Lincoln Panhandle Rsch & Ext Center

Pig relaxes in wood shavings at county fair
A pig relaxes in its stall at a past Scotts Bluff County fair in Mitchell. Photo by Chabella Guzman

It’s a hot start for many of the county fairs in western Nebraska, but it’s not unusual. The July 24-30 temperatures are expected to hit 90 or higher, which can be hard on livestock.

“We’ve modified the classes, where the cattle went first, and we’re hoping to be done early in the day,” said Sarah Paisley, Nebraska Extension 4-H youth development educator in Morrill and Garden Counties. She said on Monday, July 24, the morning had good weather for the Horse Show at the Morrill County Fair in Bridgeport. 

The spectators for the fair events also come prepared with tents if they don’t get a seat under the awnings. 

“It’s pretty common to have a pretty hot fair,” Paisley said. “Last year we were also in the 100s.”

While livestock in several counties, like Morrill, Cheyenne, and Sheridan, have been facing the heat, others are still at home staying cool.

“We have a ‘cool barn’ with an A/C unit that keeps it 40 degrees at all times for the cattle,” said Katelyn Shimic, a Scotts Bluff County 4-H member. “We wash them, and they stay in there all day under fans. At night when it’s cool, we take them out and rinse and wash them to get them used to the temperature.”

When the evenings don’t cool down, the cattle stay in the cool barns. The barns benefit the cattle in a few ways, keeping them cool and away from the flies, but it also helps with their hair growth. The cool temperatures make it seem like winter, and the cattle continue to grow a thick swath of hair. The hair is clipped at the fair for judging to accentuate the calf’s positive attributes. 

While the cattle are kept cool, Katelyn said they do begin to adjust the temperatures before the fair.

“When it comes time for fair, we’ll turn up the cooler and adjust (the cattle) to the heat,” she said. 

Cattle are not the only animals adjusting to the heat. Swine another popular fair animal, can struggle with rising temperatures. Pigs don’t sweat, like other livestock, and can suffer heat stroke if not kept cool enough. Katelyn’s sister Camille said they have been rinsing the pigs in more often in the heat.

“So rinsing them, keeping fans and coolers on them 24/7 to keep the airflow going,” Camille said. “They have individual pens to stay cooler.”

 The sisters and their brother Carter have six pigs and have been rinsing the pigs and working with their skin and hair since the beginning of summer. The pigs enjoy small swamp coolers that have water running through them. 

The sisters aren’t too worried about the heat, Camille has been taking swine to fair since she was eight years old and said they will be keeping the fans on both their steers and swine to beat the heat. 

The county fair dates in western Nebraska:

Sheridan County Fair - July 21-29, Gordon

Cheyenne County Fair - July 23-29, Sidney 

Morrill County Fair - July 24-29, Bridgeport 

Dawes County Fair - July 28 – Aug. 5, Chadron

Sioux County Fair  - July 28 – Aug. 5, Harrison

Scotts Bluff County Fair - July 29 – Aug. 5, Mitchell

Garden County Fair - Aug. 2-6, Lewellen

Kimball/Banner County Fair - Aug. 6-12, Kimball

Box Butte County Fair - Aug. 6-13, Hemingford

Deuel County Fair - Aug. 11-13, Chappell

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