A letter to fair-goers from a livestock exhibitor

During my many years showing livestock, my friends and I always talked about what we as livestock exhibitors wished we could tell everyone who attended the Kentucky State Fair.This livestock show mom shares her tips to keep your family and the animals safe at the state fair. #stockshowlife #statefair

This year, I finally took the time to write it all down.

While I do mention specifics about the Kentucky State Fair, I’m sure that the same tips could apply to any state. My hope is that these tips will help the showmen, fair goers and livestock have a safe and enjoyable state fair.

Dear Fair-goer,

I’ve been showing pigs at the Kentucky State Fair since I was a child and over the years I’ve noticed a thing or two about you.

In some ways, you and I have a lot in common. We’re both excited to take in the sights, do a little shopping and eat an ice cream cone the size of our head.

There is one key difference between you and I, however… I am here to show my livestock.

One of my favorite photos, my brother and I showing our pigs at the 2010 Ky State Fair.

My family has been working all year to get our animals ready for this moment.

On my family’s farm, we raise our own show animals so that means that we’ve been preparing for this show since before the pigs were born! We bathe them with special soaps and shampoos to help keep their skin moisturized and their hair fine.

My brother and sisters got up early every morning this summer to take our pigs for a walk and teach them how to be shown. We traveled across the state to compete in “preview” shows which only made us more excited about “the big dance” at the state fair.

Now I realize that you probably live in a city and don’t get to see farm animals very often.

I’m glad that you’re excited about seeing the many different types of animals.

As a family farmer, I love talking about how I work hard to make sure that my animals are cared for properly.

If you see me sitting in a nearby pen, feel free to pick my brain and ask me all about my animals.

If I’m in the middle of getting my pig ready for the show by brushing them off or spraying them down with water, please understand that I don’t have time to talk because I need to focus on my pig.

One of the questions I get asked the most often is, “Can I pet your pig?” This is a VERY important question to ask at the state fair because the livestock exhibits are NOT a petting zoo.

Make sure to ask the owner’s permission before petting any animal.
Photo courtesy of the Kentucky State Fair.

Not all livestock respond well to new people and they get intimidated by large crowds or new places just like you or I do. It always makes me nervous when I see children petting a show animal without the owner’s permission.

Pigs bite, cattle kick and just because the sheep or goats look too little to hurt you doesn’t mean they are! Only the animal’s owner knows if an animal is friendly or not.

In order to keep both you and my livestock safe, please don’t touch them without my permission.

While walking through the livestock barn, you probably noticed all the many different bags of feed I have.

If you watch me prepare my pigs’ feed pan, you’ll notice that I might add a scoop of one type of feed or two scoops of another, etc… This is because my pig eats a very specific diet to keep them healthy and help them be more competitive in the show.

Please don’t try to feed my pig.

Just because you want to “pig out” on a Krispy Kreme burger doesn’t make it ok to share it with my pigs!
Photo courtesy of Kentucky State Fair.

Animals are curious and will eat just about anything that you put in their mouths.

Its my job to make sure that they don’t eat anything that will hurt them so please keep your corn dog, cotton candy and krispy kreme burger to yourself.

I know many of you will be bringing your children or grandchildren with you to the state fair this year.

This year, will be my daughter’s first year at the fair as well and so I’ll share some kid friendly tips with you too.

First of all, if your child is in a stroller or wagon, please don’t take them up and down the aisles of the pig barn. The aisles are not wide enough for “two way traffic” and are intended for showmen to get their pigs to the ring.

As you can see, the aisles are a tight fit for some pigs. Its best to avoid going down the interior aisles with strollers and wagons.

Most of the pigs have never seen a stroller before and if its blocking their path they sometimes get scared and try to go under it.

I’m sure you can imagine how dangerous this can be!

If you’d like to watch the pig show, please stay near the bleachers by the show ring as there are seldom pigs walking in that area.

If your child is anything like mine, their hands and anything they grab end up in their mouth.

I always make sure that our pigs’ feed and water buckets are out of my daughter’s reach otherwise she might get curious and try to share the pigs lunch and those feeds weren’t made for little girls!

If you’ve got a curious child like mine, please keep a close eye on them while in the livestock barns.

I also make sure to wash my daughter’s hands regularly with a baby wipe or kid-friendly hand sanitizer. In fact, there are “hand washing stations” set up all over the fairgrounds for your convenience. (How handy is that?)

After all my years of showing livestock at the state fair, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of you and talk to you about my animals.

I hope these tips will help all of us (you, me and my animals) have a safe and fun time at the Kentucky State Fair.


A Livestock Exhibitor


A letter to fair-goers from a livestock exhibitor — 5 Comments

  1. And NO, they aren’t born with those triangles in their ears! And NO, it doesn’t hurt or traumatized them when we do it! :)

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  3. I just found your blog and absolutely love it. I’m on my 11th year of 4-H and by the end of my senior year I will have 13 years worth of memories (yeah. I’ve been here awhile xD). This letter goes for every animal under the barn from the steer to the bunnies! Too many people don’t know how to ask before touching and we always get complaints of kids being bitten by the rabbits because someone thought it was a good idea to stick their fingers in a cage. I gotta add, for the PETA supporters, Yes, we feed our animals. Just because our feed bowls aren’t in the pen and you aren’t looking over our shoulders every moment does not mean they aren’t fed. If we free fed these animals, they’d not be in the right condition – usually over weight. We know what we’re doing, but thank you for your concern.

  4. Thank you. I am a “city kid”, now wife & mother. I really appreciate your taking the time to share such important information in such a positive way. Most of what you have shared falls under my definition of good manners. I’m glad to know that what I have been teaching my kids is on the right track & helpful to those of you who work so hard to show your animals. We so enjoy going to the fair and are in awe of your knowledge & experience. thank you for posting.

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