By Steve White firstname.lastname@example.org
No state produces more beef than Nebraska. Drought and disease have taken a toll on this important industry. It's even a concern for the state fair, where they say animal health is a priority.
Livestock exhibitors have several pages of health regulations to contend with, including vesicular stomatitis in cattle and H3N2 variant in swine, not to mention the lingering impact of the drought.
Livestock Superintendent Bill Angell said drought was the biggest factor at the fair this year.
He said, "Some of our open class cattle are down a little bit and I think that's a lot due to drought conditions we're had and there's some people more worried about keeping cattle alive and what they're going to feed them and everything so we're going to see a little of that."
Still, big numbers of young people plan to show in 4-H and FFA competitions. But this year's grand champions may be a little smaller due to the drought.
"With the cost of feed and everything, it's taken a little of a hit," Angell said.
Animal health is always a concern at the fair, which works with the state veterinarian.
Christin Kamm of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture said, "Our goal is being out at the state fair is to protect both human and livestock from any kind of diseases that might take place and so we're striving to make sure livestock are healthy when they come in the gate and ensure everyone has a wonderful state fair experience."
This year, they're also emphasizing good health habits for those who visit the barns.
Kamm encouraged people to enjoy the funnel cake outside.
Angell said, "You do need to wash hands after you handle animals if you pet animals, anything like that."
Drought and disease could be issues. But if the scorching sun returns, the barns are climate controlled. From the huge big screen to the layout, kids take center stage at the Five Points Bank arena.
"It's the State Fair that comes once a year and it's what everyone shoots for," Angell said.
The facilities are considered to be some of the best in the nation, as exemplified by the three junior national cattle shows they held this summer. That brings strong interest to the state fair again this year as well.