• Thursday, August 16, 2012

    the Mom in the Livestock Barn

    Today, I am going to step away from the Meat Counter and become the Mom in the Livestock Barn. I became the Mom at the Meat Counter largely because of my involvement with FFA, and my favorite activity in FFA was exhibiting livestock (mostly sheep and a few pigs). From 5th grade to my senior year in high school, my family attended hundreds of livestock shows from Houston to Denver and just about everywhere in between. I married into a cow-showing family, so, now, my family enjoys exhibiting sheep and cattle at fairs.  
    My daughter exhibiting her first calf, Water Lilly. It was a special class for bottle calves and small children.
    Thousands of people take their kids to the County Fair, State Fair or the Stockshow and Rodeo in their city every year. Probably more like millions. Great! What a great way to learn about food and agriculture and spend time with your kids. Go! Enjoy!

    When you go to the fair, you and your family will see and hear (and smell) things that are new and different from your everyday lives. You probably have lots of questions and, if you’re like me, you don’t know who to ask and you’re afraid of being out of place or in the way. Don’t worry. We know about this stuff because it’s what our family does and what our kids are into. Your family may be into karate or competitive cheerleading or chess. If we went with you and your family to a karate match or cheerleading competition or chess tournament, we would have just as many questions and would feel just as out of place.

    So, I have been thinking about some tips that I could share with other moms when they take their kids to the fair.

    1. If you want to pet an animal, ask its owner, first. Animals at the fair are gentle, but they may not be used to small kids, so be sure to ask someone before you pet or let your kids pet any of the animals. Most fairs have a petting zoo, where kids can pet ‘til their heart’s content.
    This is my daughter at the petting zoo at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.
    It was free, so we were regulars.

    2. Don’t let kids stick their hands or toys (or anything) in the pens with the animals. My sister once had a pig named Fido because he would bite like a dog. Rabbits are known to bite, and little fingers look a lot like worms to chickens.

    3. Put the bottles and snacks away. The animals at the fair are clean and healthy, but there are still bacteria from their poop that may be on them that could make you sick. So, keep your snacks and bottles in your bag.

    4. Keep kids hands out of their mouths and away from their faces, too.

    5. Make sure you wash hands before you eat. In fact, go wash them after you leave the barn. Wash with soap and warm water for 30 seconds. I would wash the kids’ faces, too.

    6. You may want to bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer along. Most fairs have sanitizer stations in the barns and outside the petting zoo. Hand sanitizer is okay for right after you leave the barn or petting zoo, but washing with soap and water for 30 seconds is best. If you use hand sanitizer, make sure young kids rub it until it’s dry. If they eat it, it could make them sick.

    7. Don’t push baby strollers down the aisles in the cow barns where the cows are walking. Most cows are not used to baby strollers and it may scare them. If you want to see the cows, watch from the main aisles, or carry small children. You don’t want to get cow poop on your wheels anyway.

    8. I would keep strollers and small kids out of the way of pigs, too. Pigs are low to the ground, but they will weigh 200 to 280 pounds. There are usually ways to get to see the animals without worrying about being stepped on.

    9. Ask questions. People who bring animals to the fair are there to show them off. The kids are proud of their projects. They have been working with them for months. Encourage your kids to ask the kids who are showing questions. Here are some good ones.

    a. What is your animal’s name?

    b. Is it a boy or a girl? How do you tell the difference?

    c. How old is he (or she)?

    d. Have you already shown? How did you do?

    e. What do they eat?

    Most fairs and shows will have an area where kids can go to learn about livestock and all of agriculture. Go check it out. Sometimes there are even hands-on exhibits and games to play. Check out the fair website to know where to go.
    Sorry about the flash. Here she is at the Farm Bureau Booth at the Southwestern Stock Show in Ft. Worth. Notice her pig ears.

    Lastly, you may have some questions about Swine Flu and catching the flu from pigs. The pigs at the fair should be healthy, but if you are concerned, I would encourage you to check out the CDC’s page. All of the precautions listed above should keep your family safe. And, for a little entertainment, you could always check out Putnam Pig’s views on the subject.

    So, go! Have fun! Ask questions! Eat lots of good food! Learn about agriculture! Come back and tell me how much fun it was!