TYLER - Fairgoers and showers enjoyed the first day of the Lincoln County Fair in a blessed respite from the heat this week. Last year the cattle barn was kept just bearable with water hoses and industrial fans, but this year man and beast alike enjoyed the shade.
Nonetheless, though not as bad as last year the heat and drought has taken its toll on livestock weight, though nobody is quite sure how much.
"It's the heat, cows get cranky as we do," said Bruce Nielsen, who was showing cattle with his daughter Johannah, 12, and son Harley, 10. "These are market heifers; they'll go to the butcher after the fall. They won't gain as much, eat as much. But at least there were no major heat deaths this year."
Nielsen and his family raise cattle for show. Daughter Johannah Nielsen was at the fair to show her steer Jim Bob.
"We have to go out and check them a couple of times a day to make sure they have enough water," Johannah Nielsen said. 'If they start huffing and puffing you have to wet them down."
Mary Kay Lacek raises Red Angus cattle near Canby. She and her daughter, Taylor, were at the fair with Taylor's heifer Sunflower. The Lacek's operation may be feeling the effects of the heat this winter as well.
"We actually start calving in the fall," Lacek said. "We've had a bunch of cows abort this year. Because of the drought we're running out of grass, we may have to use have put up in the barn for this winter if this goes on."
If they use up all their stored hay, this winter they may be buying expensive hay from somewhere outside the area.
Stacey Fritz of Tyler was helping a friend Heath Houselog from Lake Benton shear some of his sheep for showing.
"This is the worst heat for a while," Houselog said.
Reminded of last year, Fritz laughed, "Was it hot last year? We go from one year to the next and forget."
According to Houselog, it's been a problem getting sheep to grow because they don't want to eat much in the heat, just like cows. But grass isn't a problem for some kinds of commercial sheep.
"These are feeders," Fritz said. "They get grain, a little hay and protein pellets."
In the meantime all they can do is keep the sheep under fans to keep them as cool as possible and hope for a break in the weather.
"No rain has been hard on the ewes," Houselog said.