The great Minnesota sweat-together


Last week was 4-H livestock encampment at the Minnesota State Fair, and it started off with a heat wave.

All three of our kids earned trips to the state fair this year, and they were all very excited to go. We finished up third-crop hay the weekend before the fair, and I’m glad we did as we put up a large percentage of it as small square bales to feed calves with. There is no hell like stacking bales in a hayloft on a hot and humid day, soaked from sweat and covered in hay chaff.

The heat during the first couple days of the fair was newsworthy enough that both Jonnie and Hannah were interviewed by the local news for a story about how 4-H’ers were keeping the animals safe during load-in despite the heat.

The dairy barn at the state fair was surprisingly comfortable thanks to many, many fans and the fact it’s shady in there. We hauled in livestock earlier than we usually would to get them there before the temperature climbed even higher with the blazing sun. Thankfully, traffic wasn’t bad, and we got there quickly.

This year was our daughter Hannah’s first year she was old enough to go, and she won a trip with her beloved Rhode Island Red Bantam chickens. They are her favorite animals on the farm, and she purchased and raised them herself. It’s great that not only she loves them but the judges at both the county and state fair liked them too. I wonder if the judges noticed that she paints their toenails.

Erik, our oldest son, got reserve champion at our county fair with a cow he had to halter train four days before the fair. His cow, Candy Cane, that had done well at the state fair the year before died of bloat one night in the pasture right before the county fair.

Emily had a very pretty white Holstein named Bell identified in case one of the kids wanted to show her in the future. She got haltered and pampered immediately. It turned out, after a couple days of acting quite offended to be tied up instead of going to the pasture, she decided it was pretty nice getting baths and prime, quality hay.

The highlight of state fair show day for me was watching Erik show her in showmanship. All the other animals in the group were being troublesome, knocking other cows around and making their kids spin endless circles to keep them in line. Bell just stood there in the chaos right as Erik had set her up, with her head up, chewing her cud and looking completely at home in the show ring as if she’d been doing it since she was a calf.

Jonnie, our middle son, might have preferred to take his Cayuga ducks to the state fair since it’s less work to show poultry, but unfortunately, he didn’t get a trip with them, so he brought his Brown Swiss cow, Candy Corn. He has been showing her since she was a calf, and she mostly just tolerates the attention and separation from her food. She’s a cow that has a resting annoyed face, so it’s funny watching her scowl her way around the ring. They did well in the show, and she was reserve champion total merit Brown Swiss.

Everyone is back from the fair now, and we’re looking at another hot weekend although I hope it’s less humid. It’s time to get going on fall building and repair projects soon, so I hope more fall-like weather shows up. I much prefer to dig dirt and pound nails in a sweatshirt versus a sweaty T-shirt. Until next time, keep living the dream. Even though it’s hot out, don’t be fooled; winter is coming. Better start getting ready.

Tim Zweber farms with his wife, Emily, their three children and his parents, Jon and Lisa, near Elko, Minnesota.


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