Fair Game for a Field Trip
Published on August 23, 2013 by arothstein
(GARDEN CITY) When you think about going to the fair, what is one of the first things that come to mind? Funnel cakes? Ferris wheel? Free concerts? While those things are all fun and good, the Western Idaho Fair is all that and more. The annual event is tied to history, and livestock plays a very large role. To help veterinary technology students expand their learning, a Broadview University instructor decided to turn the fair’s annual appearance into a classroom for a day. She took the production class there on a field trip and cut students loose.
“Today we are learning about every single one of the breeds we are studying about in class,” Heather Williams said. “Cows, sheep, goats, horses, rabbits, barnyard critters of all kinds.”
The students’ experiences begin the second they enter the gate. A rooster is crowing loudly and an enormous horse can be seen above a tall fence. But goats and sheep are the first things that they greet. A flock owner begins to explain the differences between what is considered a meat animal and what is considered a production animal.
She says, “The ones you see with dark faces are intended for meat. The ones with white faces are raised for their wool.”
The animals here on this day are all here for show. Their owners are proud of them and the great lengths they have gone to protect their lineage. Here, it’s all about prestige. And there is history here as well. Since 1897, people from all over the region have been bringing their livestock to the fair to both show and sell. Dennis Lincoln, a dairy farmer from Parma, has been steadily showing his herds here for the past 35 years. He graciously took time out of cow-tending duties to share some of his experiences with the students.
“My family first came here in 1946,” Lincoln says. “We used to own a big dairy farm with a few hundred cows. We had 160 in 2011. Today, we are down to 45.”
Lincoln, who has a degree in dairy science from Utah State University, explained that the economy and rising feed costs forced his family out of the dairy business in 2012. He now brings a handful of cows to show each year. He arrived at the fair with five this year, but will be returning home with six. One of his cows gave birth to a bull the day before.
“I was hoping she would hold out until we got back home,” he says, “but apparently she decided now was the best time.”
In addition to tending his herd, Lincoln also serves as the Fair’s dairy superintendent, and he uses his education to test dairy cows for milk production. While wistful about his dairy days, he is positive about one thing in particular.
“The thing that I don’t miss the most—getting up bright and early and milking the cows,” he said.
Lessons about the dairy industry quickly turn into talk about pigs as the students move on down the line. They learn that pigs are classified by their ears, and that notches in their ears actually show when they were born, how many were in their litter, and the number of their birth.
By the end of the day, the students had the opportunity to learn about and touch everything from horses to birds of all feathers—including a very large-horned Watusi lying happily in the fair’s petting zoo.
“This was the best field trip ever,” Sunday Sunderlin, a veterinary technology student, said. “My favorite part was all of the sheep kisses I got.”
“I even learned something new today,” Williams said. “I learned how cross breeding works and why it’s important. That’s something I never knew about before and it’s fascinating.”
Lessons learned, the students ended their adventure in the food line, because everyone knows you can’t leave the fair—without a funnel cake.
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