Grandin to talk about animal handling at Colorado State Fair
Scott Stoller, general manager of the Colorado State Fair, had the chance to watch the fair last year before taking the reins and having a hand in the planning of this year’s fair.
Stoller and his family moved to Pueblo in July of 2018 and he was able to observe the fair, look and learn. One of the things he noticed was the programming on Fiesta Day gave visitors a cultural experience. He hopes to emulate that experience during the first weekend of the fair and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo with country bands and a full western experience for visitors.
While Stoller said the majority of changes will be to programming that won’t affect livestock exhibitors and shows, but one addition that will benefit exhibitors is the chance to hear Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and consultant to the livestock industry, speak.
Grandin will speak on the first Sunday of the fair, one program for the general public and then a smaller presentation designed for exhibitors and families.
Stoller said he recognizes that the fair livestock exhibitors are the cream of the crop of the state’s 4-H and FFA members and said he hopes they will take the opportunity to hear Dr. Grandin speak about the industry they’re a part of.
Grandin said she will speak to exhibitors about basic animal behavior and best practices for training stock to be prepared for stressful situations, like the fair.
“You hear people say, ‘my animal was fine at home but went berserk at the show,’ you hear that all the time,” Grandin said. “The reason that happens is there is a lot of new stuff at a show that you do not have at home — things like bikes, flags and balloons.”
Grandin said exposing livestock to these things, allowing him or her to explore them at their own pace is key to a lower stress situation at the show. Training, which is a time intensive process, should adhere to a working knowledge of animal behavior.
“The big mistake people make is when the steer starts to lead, they keep pulling,” she said. “The instant the steer takes a step forward, let up on the lead rope. The instant the steer does something you want, you give relief. Instantly.”
Grandin said she appreciates Curt Pate’s method, one she calls clever. Pate works on a long lead, outside the animal’s flight zone and as the animal learns to lead, she said he reduces the flight zone by shortening the lead.
In a time in which livestock producers are scrutinized for practices, Grandin said to never do anything to an animal that would be criticized if someone photographed it.
In her scheduled talk to the general public, she said she will talk about improvements in animal handling in all stages of production. Not coming from an agricultural background, she said she became interested in the cattle industry after being exposed to it, something that could happen to fairgoers from non-ag backgrounds.
Grandin said she is particularly interested in alternative proteins, both plant-based and lab-produced. She said some people argue that cattle production uses an excessive amount of land, but she said it is land unsuited for crop production. Sustainability, she said, is raising grazing animals on land and producing protein from grass. This sustainability piece is one she questions in lab-produced protein production.
“What’s so sustainable about giant monocultures of soy?” she said. “You can make a vegetable product that kind of imitates meat. The other approach is to grow meat in a lab. Now the thing I question is the energy use. Nobody’s looked at that, especially when you look at the grazing animal that can be eating grass the sun makes grow.”
She also questions the ability to clean the lab equipment used, causing disease threats.
“I’m going to think that real meat, especially grass-fed meat, where half its life is grass fed, is going to be better on energy use,” she said. “That’s the thing I question, the energy inputs you’re going to have to put into this. If you want a muscle, it has to move. so then they have to make some sort of machine that moves it, unless I want to eat tofu-textured meat and I hate tofu. I hate it.”
Grandin was en route to speak to the Pennsylvania Meat Processor’s Association about animal handling.
“Just basics,” she said. “The thing is people still got to have their basics. People say Temple Grandin keeps talking about the same stuff, I find I have to. People still need the basics.”
With horse shows, animal entertainers, a rodeo and livestock shows, Stoller said the fair takes animal care seriously and he is excited to bring Grandin in to support and encourage that end with a message specific to those young people in the industry.
Stoller said another new event that showcases Colorado grown products is the World Slopper Eating Championship. Contestants have 8 minutes to eat as many sloppers — open faced cheeseburgers smothered in green chile, for the undoctrinated — as possible and Stoller hopes to partner with Colorado growers to highlight the state’s wheat growers, beef producers, dairy producers and potato growers.
Stoller grew up in the Gold Rush Country of California on a Quarter Horse and Angus cattle ranch and was active in 4-H and FFA. After earning an ag business degree from Chico State University, he managed the fair in Corvalis, Ore., for four years before returning to Chico to manage the Silver Dollar Fair for nine years. ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at email@example.com or (970) 392-4410.