In 2015, the Ohio State Fair will run from July 29 through Aug. 9, celebrating the state’s agricultural community. The headline event, The Sale of Champions, will highlight Ohio’s top livestock and their young exhibitors.
While that sale acts as a fundraiser, generating bids of tens of thousands of dollars to support youth programs, county fairs provide the opportunity for individuals to fill their freezers with local meat often at market prices.
If you’re interested in bidding on an animal at your local fair, contact your fair board or county Extension office ahead of time and ask how your particular sale works. Ask how much you might expect to pay for the type of animal you are interested in. (The Ohio Department of Agriculture has banned live bird exhibitions at fairs this year as a precautionary measure against the spread of avian flu.) Check on arrangements that need to be made for transportation and processing. Many fairs have a system in place to handle these logistics; just be sure you know what they are.
We invite you to learn a little more about just a few of the many animals that you will see at Ohio fairs this summer.
“Stout, rosy boys and girls are they
Whose heads scarce reach
the dipping boughs,
Who learn their first philosophy
While driving home the cows.”
~ Kate B. Sherwood in an 1877 poem reflecting on the character of her fellow Ohioans.
Ohio is home to 1.25 million head of cattle and calves. In parts of Ohio not suited for crop production, particularly in the east and southeast, many farmers raise cows and their offspring on hilly pastures. Unless they will be marketed as grassfed beef, calves will graze for about a year before they are sent to a feedyard for several months and raised to a market weight of 1,200 pounds.
“If it were not possible to bring a cow with them, it was one of the first things a family attempted to acquire upon reaching the end of their journey.”
~ Author Barbary Stickley Sour in Early Ohioans and Their Critters on the priorities of the state’s settlers.
Ohio has about 2,800 dairy farms with 270,000 cows. Cows produce six to seven gallons of milk per day. There are a number of breeds of dairy cattle, the most popular being the black and white Holsteins and the smaller, brown Jerseys. While female calves born on dairy farms will often be brought into the milking herd, bull calves will be raised for beef.
“Out of an excessively busy life, pigs have cost me more time than fishing or golf or any of the usual activities in which men are accustomed to find relaxation, amusement, and exasperation.”
~ Louis Bromfield, an Ohio farmer and novelist, describing the ups and downs of working with pigs.
Ohio ranks 8th in the nation in hog production. It takes up to six months to raise a pig to between 240 and 260 pounds. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has recommended cooking pork to 145 degrees instead of 160 degrees, producing a more flavorful and juicy final product.
“When things go right, I know, lambing season is almost unbearably exciting.”
~ Ohio farmer Richard Gilbert in his book Shepherd: A Memoir.
With a total herd of 115,000 animals, Ohio is the largest sheep producing state east of the Mississippi, and sheep are raised in every county in the state. While older generations may remember lamb as tasting gamey, farmers have since focused on improving meat quality and producing meat with milder flavors.