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Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Heat poses dangers at Auglaize County Fair

Animals need extra care in 90-degree weather

By Shelley Grieshop

A hog in the swine barn at the Auglaize County Fair in Wapakoneta appears eager. . .

WAPAKONETA - Water bottles, sodas and every fruity flavor of shaved ice were popular items Wednesday afternoon at the Auglaize County Fair as the temperature threatened to hit the 100-degree mark.
Men, women and children wandering about the fairgrounds were surviving the heat in a variety of ways. But livestock and smaller animals were showing signs of stress.
"We've tried to provide more fans this year in the barns and stalls," said fairground Secretary Fred Piehl, whose own face showed a hint of sunburn from frequent trips outside.
In the show arena where judges peered out from behind their stoop, a nice breeze was flowing from end to end thanks to open doors and large commercial fans aimed in every direction.
Last month a new, $5,000 fan was placed in the show ring and is working like a charm, Piehl said.
"It looks like a helicopter fell upside down into the ceiling," Piehl said, describing the 24-foot-wide fan blades that circulate air from the center of the building.
The powerful piece of equipment is affectionately called the "Big Ass Fan," in reference to the name of the company that manufactures them, he said with a chuckle.
Due to the recent addition of another swine show arena, the crowds are more spread out and that also has helped ventilation with less people hovering in one spot, he added.
In the past, the stifling heat of late July and early August caused some swine and rabbits to perish during fair week, Piehl said. Those animals are much more susceptible to the hot, muggy temperatures, he added.
In the swine barn, Keith Dabbelt of New Bremen was keeping a close eye on several of the hogs he and his children and two friends were showing this week. Dabbelt said one way to tell if a swine is in heat distress is to observe a purplish color to the skin and tongue, he said.
"This one, yesterday, got real hot," he said, pointing to the largest of the group, a 4-month-old, 290-pound hog. "That's why this board's up."
Dabbelt said he noticed the sun was glaring down on his stall - located at the end of the row nearest the entrance. He quickly placed a wide, wooden board in the open area to block the sun's rays.
Dabbelt says he and the kids - members of the New Bremen FFA - check their swine hourly, using a spray bottle to mist the four-legged animals. The hogs, which do not sweat through their glands like other animals, respond eagerly to the sprayings by getting as close to the bottle as they can for a full soaking, he said.
The heat was an obvious concern throughout the afternoon. In each barn, adults and 4-H youths could be seen frequently filling water containers and checking on their cattle, goats, horses and other show animals.
Piehl said he noticed many rabbit owners placing frozen water bottles inside their animals' cages. The fuzzy bunnies eagerly lay on top of the bottles to keep their core temperatures down, he said.
But 17-year-old Mary Schulze said she doesn't believe it's a good idea to put the icy water bottles in the cages. She refuses to do it for her four breed stock rabbits or the market pen breed she's showing this week.
"They (rabbits) become too dependent on it, and they lose their own heat control system," she explained. "If you're not here all the time, the water thaws and gets warm and then the rabbits really struggle."
Today will be another hot one at the fair with temperatures predicted to again rise into the 90s. Forecasters say there won't be much of a drop in temperatures in the next few days either.
Despite the extremely humid day Wednesday, scores of people were everywhere, many with T-shirts and tank tops soaked in sweat. At the First Aid station near the gate, Buckland EMT's said they'd not treated anyone for heat exhaustion or related health problems all day.
By mid-day, many people were scampering into the Junior Fair and exhibit buildings where the air conditioning felt like an oasis.       
One woman, clutching a cherry snow cone and a paper towel, gasped aloud as she felt the cool air hit her face upon entering the Junior Fair building.
"I don't care what's in here, we're going to look at it for a very long time," she told the young boy beside her, as she wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead.
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