BLOOMSBURG, Pa. - The number of livestock entries at this year’s Bloomsburg Fair was down, and it wasn’t a surprise to livestock director Jeff Giger.
Still, it was a disappointment.
According to Giger, the collective number of cattle, goats, swine and sheep dropped from an average of 1,400 animals to around 1,200 for this year’s fair, which runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 2. The biggest decreases occurred with dairy cattle and swine, and Giger pinpointed the factors behind each decline.
“Health issues with several exhibitors prevented them from bringing three dairy to herds to the show. They plan on being back next year, Giger said, and he’s optimistic the number of dairy entries in 2022 will rebound.
As far as the drop in swine entries, Giger said it was significant and the result of something beyond anyone’s control.
On July 17, the state Department of Agriculture issued new quarantine orders in the wake of African swine fever risks. Under the requirements, breeding swine must be removed from the fairgrounds before market swine arrive. Giger said the fair schedule couldn’t accommodate the having breeding and market swine on the grounds at different times, so the former was absent this year. It represented a loss of around 80 breeder hogs that would’ve been exhibited, he said, and the fair was unable to hold its popular display of a sow with a litter of piglets.
“We’re very disappointed the state wouldn’t allow it, and Pennsylvania is the only state that did this,” Giger said. “We have an empty barn where open breeding hogs would’ve been housed, and that’s about half of our swine entries. It’s a loss to not only the farmers but the patrons of the fair as well.”
Still, after last year’s cancellation due to the pandemic, there were plenty of positives with this year’s livestock exhibits.
On Thursday, dairy cattle made a constant parade into the livestock arena for a 4-H competition in the morning followed by judging for the Supreme Champion Dairy Cow in both the senior and junior divisions.
Greg McMurtrie, who operates Edn-Ru Jerseys in Centre Hall, Pa., took home the senior champion honor with his 4-year-old cow, Domino. It was the first time in the show ring for the Jersey cow, who freshened a month ago.
“She’s a good cow and we knew she had a chance,” McMurtrie said. “She has a high, wide udder which is one thing that stands out.”
He brought more than a dozen Jerseys and three Shorthorns to the fair, continuing a busy summer in the show ring with stops at events in Jefferson County, Clearfield County and other places.
“I was really hard pressed to start it this year. It’s a lot of work and we stay here all week,” McMurtrie said. But the work really starts months before this, working with them every day and breeding them to freshen in time for the fairs.”
Tresa Savidge’s Red and White heifer, Primrose, took home the junior supreme champion award. The Danville, Pa. teen capped off her 4-H career with the honor, and she said Primrose had potential after performing well at two other fairs this summer.
“This actually started in March when I worked with her as much as possible – walking, washing, clipping. If you work with the animals as much as you can, they’ll work well with you in the ring,” Savidge said.
Before selecting the supreme champions, judge Wade Sturgeon took some time to discuss the different dairy breeds as they were all lined up in the ring. The Red and White breed, he said, has improved dramatically over the years and is now on par with the quality of a Holstein. In fact, when the Holstein breed was brought to America from Holland in the mid-1800s, many of them carried the red gene, Sturgeon said.
While the competition in the ring is a priority for a judge, he said, it’s also important to use the venue of a fair to educate the public.
“The people in the stands that aren’t farmers don’t know about the different breeds,” Sturgeon said. “As a judge, I like to talk about the purpose of showing cattle, the natural confirmation of the animal and some of the history.”
While the ribbons and trophies are the highlight of livestock events, Giger agreed that education is a crucial component of any fair. While he was disappointed about the loss of breeding pigs at the fair, Giger said there was still plenty for the public to see.
“The two most important things of this fair are the livestock and the food,” he said. “Our exhibitors are passionate about what they do, and part of that is about sharing it with the public.”