BLOOMSBURG, Pa. — The number of animals entered into livestock shows at this year’s Bloomsburg Fair was down slightly from 2018, and threat of a particular disease was to blame.

The 1,300 livestock entries this year was down approximately 100, and fair officials attributed the drop to a state mandate enacted on June 1 designed to protect against African swine fever.

Jeff Giger, director of livestock for the fair, said the mandate prohibits open breeding swine from being at the fair at the same time as 4-H market pigs. Giger said he had to turn away numerous exhibitors with open breeding swine.

While African swine fever has not yet been detected in the U.S., the seriousness of the highly contagious virus was enough to force the USDA to restrict imports of pork from affected countries, in addition to the state mandate. Swine fever affects wild and domestic pigs, but not humans or other animals.

Giger understood the importance of the provision, and he added that turnout remained strong in several other livestock categories.

Beef was a good example. Giger said beef entries across several categories were consistently high, a trend that began two years ago when dairy slightly declined.

“It’s been very good. We’re getting more beef to replace a drop in dairy entries,” Giger said.

On Sept. 23, the 4-H market steer competition and the 4-H dairy beef show attracted a combined 38 entries. Despite the hot conditions, kids patiently worked their animals in the ring showing a variety of beef breeds, including Shorthorn, Shorthornplus, Hereford and Angus.

Kaylee Moyer, 13, of Middleburg, earned grand champion in the 4-H market steers show with her Maine cross steer. The ribbon added to Moyer’s collection, which included another grand champion at the Beaver Community Fair in Snyder County days earlier, plus a top finish in 4-H swine show earlier in the day at Bloomsburg.

“The steer I showed (at Beaver Community Fair) I put a lot of hours in, washing, blow drying and walking. I knew he was good,” Moyer said. “The steer today, I had no idea he would do this well. It was worth all the hard work that I put in with these animals.”

Still, a ribbon isn’t the only benefit that comes with a 4-H show.

Giger said education is an important component of the 4-H program, and the public enjoys watching the kids show their animals and learn about the work it took to get them to the ring.

“You can tell when a kid spends a lot of time with their animal, because that animal responds accordingly in the show ring,” Giger said. “The 4-H kids really do a great job educating the public about show animals and agriculture.”

Ben Williamson, who served as judge, said the 4-H shows are the best way to instill work ethic in youth, and also a valuable tool to recruit other kids into agriculture.

While beef cattle entries were strong at Bloomsburg, Williamson said there has been a downward trend in participation at other locales. He attributed the drop to the work commitment required to raise a show animal, and the fact that people are simply becoming more removed from farm life.

“There are ways we can re-engage the public, and the agriculture industry has to do a better job recruiting kids back into it,” Williamson said. “4-H shows are a great way to recruit and teach work and dedication.

“It’s different from working out at a gym. When you’re sick, you can’t take a day off. You still have to get up and go to the barn to care for your animals. That takes commitment, and 4-H shows are the best way to teach that.”

4-H Market Steers Results

  • Grand champion: Kaylee Moyer, Middleburg
  • Reserve grand champion: Calley Travelpiece, Orangeville
  • Columbia County grand champion: Katie Dingle, Catawissa
  • Columbia County reserve grand champion: Josh Knoebel, Elysburg
  • Best bred and owned: Annabelle Rapp, Paxinos
  • Showmanship, senior division: Annabelle Rapp, Paxinos
  • Showmanship, intermediate division: Katherine Rapp, Paxinos
  • Showmanship, junior division: Amanda Rapp, Paxinos