rr schakel

Will Schakel

Will Schakel of the Rush County Extension office, who has been involved with the ag community and the Rush County Fair for a number of years, took a few minutes from his busy fair schedule to answer a series of questions concerning the livestock pavilion and 4-H programs at the fair.

(Q.) How long have you personally been involved with the Rush County Fair?

(A.) “This is the first time in 20 years that I have not been involved as a 4-H parent at the county fair. Before that I was involved and a member of the Rush County Fair Board, so I would say about 25 years. The last five years I have been employed by the Rush County Extension office, so that has somewhat increased my time and involvement with the fair.”

(Q.) What can and do the 4-H members learn from raising livestock and showing them at the fair?

(A.) “Raising livestock is a program that the kids get involved with for a variety of reasons. What they get out of the programs are many life skills that they will utilize throughout the rest of their lives. It is a very excellent project. Rush County has a very good livestock program here in the county. By that I mean that we don’t have a lot of high profile people that are strictly concerned with winning that take it too seriously. They put the kids first and not the almighty golden trophy. We have some very excellent teachers and people here as far as showing at the pavilion, whether it is sheep, hogs or cattle.”

(Q.) When does the actual process of showing livestock at the fair begin?

(A.) “Showing gets quite detailed for those that show beef cattle. Some of the 4-Hers have already purchased or gotten their calves for next year and may have started doing a little work with them now. Typically speaking, for a beef steer they get the calf in September and so they’ve got seven eight or nine months of caring, training and feeding of that animal before they actually bring it to the fair. Some of the dairy cattle are brought back as two-, three- or four-year-olds, so that is an extended period of time that the members work with the animal. Pigs are generally born in January or February, and since the Rush County Fair is so early that many of our barrows shown here are born in December. I guess what I am trying to say is that these are year-long projects. Many times the entire family is involved in the effort. And as I said before, it teaches many life skills. We are talking about livestock, but there many other project that are underway at the same time too.”

(Q.) What is the smallest showing area here locally?

(A.) “We have other projects, such as goats and rabbits. There is a lot of responsibility and knowledge that can be gained from raising rabbits. The rabbit projects are not very large here, but in some county fairs there have been as many as 2,000 rabbits shown.”

(Q.) You mentioned the family aspect, how important is that to the showing process?

(A.) “It is very much a family project, and not just here at the Rush County Fair and not just this one week of the year. I know of a number of families that have shown here this week and will be at a national youth show on the East Coast in the near future. This is something that families can really get involved in and it is a commitment on all those concerned. Showing livestock is also something that is widely accepted, where the kids are not looked down upon because they are doing something with their family.”

(Q.) What are your duties with the county’s Extension office and how do they relate to the Rush County Fair?

(A.) “I am a part-time employee with the Extension office and I am in charge of the ag program. As far as the fair is concerned, it revolves around the livestock projects here at the pavilion and helping out where I can and how I can. It could be from announcing a program to helping clean up. It is just a little bit of everything.”

(Q.) What would you like the community to know about the livestock area of the local fair that they may not be aware of?

(A.) “The Rush County Fair is kind of unique in that because of space we change the pavilion almost daily. We bring sheep in on Monday and then take them home. On Tuesday we bring pigs in and show them and then have the sale for both on Tuesday night. On Wednesday we show rabbits and other smaller animals and then we bring dairy in on Thursday and then beef cattle on Friday. This may be one of the only fairs in the state that does it this way. It can be taxing on both the animals and the participants. Due to space constraints we have two auctions and rotate the livestock in out.”

Frank Denzler can be contacted at (765) 932-2222 or via e-mail at frank.denzler@cnhimedia.com. To add a comment to this story visit our Website at www.rushvillerepublican.com.