Monday, July 25, 2011

A great article from Hoosier Ag Today!

An Open Letter to 4-H Livestock

By Gary Truitt

Dear 4-H livestock projects:
I am writing to voice my concern over several incidents that have occurred at county fairs across the Midwest this summer. While seemingly isolated incidents they represent a trend that could result in the loss of your popularity and the ability of your exhibitors to bring you to the fair. While I agree that you may be justified in your actions, the bottom line is that you are setting things in motion that may have very undesirable and unintended consequences.   Let me put it in simpler terms so the sheep and turkeys will understand: you had better start behaving yourselves in public.

I have received several documented reports of bad behavior on the part of 4-H animals at county fairs. These occurred in different fairs across the Midwest and involved several different species. All, however, involved interaction with the non-farm public.   While these may seem trivial to you, it is a serious matter to the city folks who are walking through the barns. Let's be honest -- you are the star of the show at the county fair. Yes, there are the midway, the fair food, and the tractor pull, but research has shown the biggest reason people come to the fair is you. This is your one and only chance to be a star, so don't blow it. Let me offer a few help suggestions.

Hogs: While I realize it is hot and you are exceeding grumpy because you cannot sweat, please try and resist the temptation to have a temper tantrum and go running through the barn knocking adults and children to the ground.   Remember, most of these people have read Charlotte's Web and have seen the movie Babe, thus think you are cute and cuddly.

Steers and Heifers: Please do not smash the hands of the children against the rail when they reach in to pet you like a dog. When a small child's idiotic parents let him run up right behind you, resist the temptation to kick him into the middle of next week.

Dairy cows: While at home there is no need for you to restrain yourself when that urge to relieve yourself comes upon you, but at the fair, please use a little discretion. It is especially tacky to let loose in front of a family from town who is eating lunch or while posing for pictures next the fair queen who is wearing open-toed sandals and a short dress.

Horses: You are proud and noble beasts and I know it would give you great satisfaction to bite the wiggling fingers of the children thrusting their hands into your stall while yelling, "Hi, horsey!" But if you do, you will just get left home in a hot paddock next year.

As for the rest of you, just keep in mind that scratching, snapping, or spitting is not good fair behavior. While I know you are animals, understand that most of the people coming through the barns don't understand that. They expect you to, as one mother put it to me, "act nice."

You should also know that there are forces at work in our world which would like nothing more than to shut down the 4-H livestock program. They feel that teaching young people proper animal care and personal responsibility is wrong. The kind of incidents mentioned above only give them an opportunity to criticize the 4-H livestock program.

So next time you get loaded up and taken to the fair, strike an attitude of knowing superiority. Remember you know more about animal agriculture than most of the folks who will be ogling you at the fair.

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