Thursday, August 9th, 2007
By Nancy Allen
Feelin' the heat
Fair participants, animals try to keep their cool at the Mercer County Fair
With sweat running down his face, 14-year-old Zach Guggenbiller strained with the entire might of his 85-pound body to get the 1,600-pound cow to stay still in the show ring.
But the fidgety cow swung around and walked out of the lineup before ringman Carl Harting stepped in to help.
The youth wasn't the only junior fair member having a difficult time with his animal Wednesday at the Mercer County Fair, as hot, humid temperatures made for uncomfortable animals and frustrated handlers.
One particularly disagreeable cow escaped from its handler to take a short romp at one end of the show ring before she was brought back in line. Others continually mooed and looked with wide, anxious eyes toward the barn.
"The heat is intense. It's very uncomfortable for the cows and the kids," said Fort Recovery resident Daryl Guggenbiller, Zach's father, after the show.
Dairy cows are even more uncomfortable because their udders are kept full for competition.
Dan Pohl, Coldwater, also had his hands full keeping his cow in line for the judge. Pohl, 17, continually rubbed the animal's neck to keep her calm as she breathed heavily. A bead of sweat trickled slowly down Pohl's cheek. He had to keep pushing his cow back in line, so the judge could view her udder from behind.
"Yeah, they don't like it," Pohl said after the competition, leading his cow away. "We and the cows."
Pohl said they use fans, give the animals more baths and try to get them to drink as much water as possible to keep cool and hydrated.
Over in the poultry building, chickens were panting in their cages as several fans mounted above blew air on them. The ducks and geese played in their water, splashing it about.
Small animals and hogs are the ones to watch for heat stress, said Barb Phares, who works for the Mercer County OSU Extension coordinating Junior Fair activities.
"Small animals have a faster metabolism than bigger animals, so they run into trouble faster," Phares said. "And hogs can't cool themselves because they can't sweat."
Phares said she has not received any reports of animal fatalities caused by the heat. She noted the hottest part of the fairgrounds Wednesday was the horse show arena, which has no shade. Also, handlers wear pants, long shirts and sometimes jackets in competition.
The horse judge let kids with jackets remove them, and some participants decided not to show due to the heat, Phares said.
"You cannot ride a horse in a pair of shorts or you would be majority saddle sore," Phares said.
Junior and senior fair participants, most of whom come from a farming background, also know what they have to do to keep their animals healthy, she said.
"A lot of it is just using common sense and making sure you pay attention to your animals," Phares said. "We can't control the weather, but we can control how we treat them."
Phares said this isn't the hottest Mercer County Fair she remembers.
"It's been awhile, but I remember a fair when the temperature was 105 degrees," she said. "Now that was bad."
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