Owners talk about stresses on animals at the Walworth County Fair

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Andrea Anderson
Saturday, August 30, 2014

ELKHORN--Connor Hessman sprayed his Duroc pig with a spray bottle to keep it cool in the summer heat at the Walworth County Fair.

It wasn't particularly hot for fairgoers, but it was for the pig that was lathered in baby oil earlier in the day before judging.

Pigs are rubbed with oil to make them look sharp for showing. The downside is the oil  traps body heat and can cause the pig to overheat, 14-year-old Connor said. 

Pigs also don't sweat. That's another reason to mist them to stay cool.

The Duroc was one of two pigs in Connor's pen taken to the fair earlier in the week.

The pen is nicer than the one at Connor's town of Walworth home, he said.

“They have all the necessities," Connor said.

Pigs can be sensitive to commotion, he said.

Connor's pigs became nervous when he put them in a trailer to go to the fair. Once they arrived, they settled in, calmed down and started to snooze.

“They aren't really used to (the trailer), and they lost a lot of weight, too,” Connor said. “They're nervous, but after a while, they start snooping in everything and get used to it.”  

The heat, noise and commotion have the potential to be stressors on animals. Owners told The Gazette the animals adjust rapidly and are well taken care of.

“I think you see a lot of animals here all pretty happy,” said Lisa Konkel, dairy superintendent. “If they weren't happy, they'd tell you."

The cows in the dairy barn were lying down and chewing on hay, and they appeared to be content.

Konkel of Elkhorn remembers the 2010 fair as the hottest she, her family and animals attended.

The heat index was more than 100 degrees throughout the week.

Fans with misters blew on the cows; drinking buckets were filled to the brim as often as possible, and cows were taken on walks like clockwork to ensure their health was at its best. It's similar for other animals.

“It would be even hotter if they were out in a sunny pasture because the sun would be beating down on them,” Konkel said about cows and other animals being kept in the barns.

Because the cows are sprayed for flies, their hair is clipped for showing, they are given cool baths daily and the fans are going, the cows are better off at the fair, Konkel said.

When it comes to noise and activity, the animals adjust.

On Tuesday, Konkel was walking some cows when a tractor came by to scrape up manure. The sound of metal against the pavement was unfamiliar and startling.

“They jumped, like what was that. Then they looked at it and followed it with their eyes and moved their body because they were scared,” Konkel described. “But as soon as you got by it, they were fine.”

Konkel also recalled a time where a mother and a child in a stroller went up to her cow and petted its hind leg. The cow didn't move.

"She didn't care because it didn't bother her anymore …It's what you grow accustomed to."

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