Ahh…county fair time across NE Ohio. As a former 4H‘er and a present 4H parent I am very excited this time of year. The county fair is the climax of the summer for our family. The boys have been working very hard raising livestock (pigs and chickens) and making wood and welding projects. Each year I am reminded that many people don’t live on farms, and therefore don’t understand the importance to barn rules. This year, it is even more important to understand with the recent outbreak of swine infuenza at the Butler County Fair. So please, take some time to read this before heading into the barns at the county fair or at any local farm.
1. If the barn has a sign that says “BARN CLOSED”, that means do not enter unless you own one of the animals in that barn. Why do we close barns? That day, there probably is a show and we need to move animals around in the aisle way. Your baby in a stroller will not win in a chicken race with a 250 pound pig. We close the barns for your safety! If you must see a pig that day, find out where the show is and watch the 4H kids “show” the animals. This is a much more amusing opportunity than watching them lay in a pen.
2. Do not eat in the barns or feed the animals. I know it is tempting to give that pig a piece of kettle corn or the goat a french fry, but please refrain. We raise our animals on strict nutritional diets, and don’t want any upset stomachs at the fair. Many of the animals are already adjusting to a different water, and strange food will make that worse.
3.Please ask before touching. Just like strange dogs, farm animals may react in a way that you were not prepared for. Some pigs bite, horses kick, goats eat hair, and chickens peck. Simply ask the owner if their animal may be touched. If refused, don’t take it personally – they have a good reason to say no.
4.If you are sick, stay home. Animals can catch the flu from you! Most fairs will be testing or screening the swine for flu. If found to be ill, they will be sent home. You should do the same. If you or anyone in your house has the flu, please stay home and stay out of the livestock barns. “Swine Flu” is not a food borne illness, you cannot catch it by eating pork…so please continue to eat the pulled pork sanwiches!
5. Feel free to take pictures and ask questions. Most 4Hers take great pride in their animals and projects and are happy to answer questions and pose for pictures.