HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — For a quarter of a century, fairgoers at the Kansas State Fair witnessed the birth of chicks, lambs, calves and piglets. Veterinarians, veterinary students and FFA volunteers watch over the mothers and babies, as well as explain the miracle of life to visitors of all ages at the Birthing Center.
"You're looking at a generation where there is not a connection to the farm," said Shaun Huser, a veterinarian from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, referring to classes of students entering the building. "Hopefully, people can see where milk comes from, where their meat comes from and the strength of their bond with agriculture."
Huser, who grew up on a farm in southeast Kansas, runs farm calls with students and aids farmers in Manhattan, Kansas. Because the Birthing Center at the fair contains pregnant and newly born animals, a veterinarian and veterinary students are present to make rounds 24 hours a day.
"We need to do night feedings and night checks," said Chuck Dodd, a veterinarian from Kansas State who runs the center.
The doctors and students only intervene if there is a problem. Dodd, who grew up on a farm in southeast Kansas, said the birthing process is normal. Several animals gave birth throughout the week, including a pig who birthed 18 piglets and a hen who hatched 13 chicks. All the little ones — calves, lambs, kids (baby goats) and chicks — entertained crowds, The Hutchinson News reported.
"This is a pretty rare opportunity for these kids (children) to see," Dodd said.
Kailea Funk, 16, of Hillsboro High School, demonstrated to Yaneli Garcia, 9, of Great Bend, how to wrap a horse's leg.
"I get to tell a story about the horse and teach children," said Kailea, who wants to become a teacher. "I make the story fit the age of the child, so they can better understand."
Yaneli's mother, Yesenia Garcia, watched her daughter help Kailea.
"She really loves this," said Garcia, who lives in the city. "She loves the animals."
Samantha Prester, a fourth-year veterinary student, showed Grace Miller, 3, how to feel inside "Bessie" the simulator cow and determine if the cow was pregnant. Grace put on a plastic glove, added lubrication, and learned what it was like to feel the calves inside an animal.
"There are two calves," she told her mother.
Both veterinarians and experienced farmers use this method to determine if a cow is pregnant, how far along they are, and if they are having more than one calf.
"You're training your brain to see what you feel," Prester explained.
Bessie travels throughout Kansas to train farmers and ranchers. When an animal is giving birth, sometimes farmers and ranchers call in a veterinarian. Other times, they help — if they need to — with the birth themselves.
Gestation periods vary between animals and breeds. Sheep and goats usually take 150 days to come to full term, while cattle take about 279 days — although breeds vary.
"Pigs take just shy of four months," Husen said. "Three months, three weeks and three days."
Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com
An AP Member Exchange shared by The Hutchinson News.