Some of the biggest stars of this year’s Georgia National Fair arrived on the grounds Tuesday.
They are six Holstein cows that will give birth in front of an audience at the fair’s newest addition, the Baby Barn. More cows will arrive later with the aim of having one live birth each day of the fair, which runs Thursday through Oct. 14.
Stephen Shimp, executive director of the fairgrounds, said he is hearing a lot of buzz from people about the Baby Barn.
“They can’t wait to see it,” he said. “We are getting more phone calls I think than we have ever had about a new exhibit at the fairgrounds. This is going to be a huge hit.”
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He said giving birth in front of an audience will not be stressful for dairy cows. The cows come into a barn three times a day to be hooked up to a milking machine.
“Dairy cows are around humans all the time,” he said. “That’s why they are the best animals to do this with.”
The first cows brought into the Baby Barn on Tuesday looked perfectly calm, despite a fair amount of activity going on around them with setup of the Baby Barn and the adjacent Georgia Grown space in the same building.
Jack Spruill, marketing director of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, talked about the temperament of the cows as he stood by the arena in the center of the Baby Barn, where the first cow expected to give birth on Thursday was lying in wood shavings.
“If you look at this cow behind me, you can see that this is no stress on her,” he said. “Cows are not private individuals. These cows are used to hubbub and commotion.”
The gestation of cows is fairly exact, Spruill said, and the cows were artificially inseminated to be timed to give birth during the fair. He said some mild inducement may be used. The fair is using the same model as the Minnesota State Fair, which has a similar facility and a 90 percent success rate at getting cows to give birth from noon to 5 p.m. each day of the fair.
People can get a push alert on their smart phones when there is a pending birth by downloading the Georgia National Fair app from the app store on their phones. The app also will feature GPS technology that will allow people to put a pin where they park and be directed back to their vehicle. It also will help them locate specific exhibits at the fair.
Veterinarians and student veterinarians will be on hand throughout the fair to assist with births if needed and to narrate what is happening to the crowd. The Baby Barn will hold about 1,000 people with overhead TV monitors showing the action. Spruill said a couple of births may be done on Facebook Live, but otherwise there will not be a continuing live feed that can be viewed online.
Swine with babies already born a few days ago also will be in the Baby Barn. The calves that are born will be placed in a “nursery” in the Baby Barn.
The Baby Barn isn’t the only new addition at the fair this year.
Keaton Walker, marketing director of the fairgrounds, said a new ride this year is the Euro Slide, which stands 78-feet tall and will slide eight people at once in side-by-side lanes that run 122 feet. The fair also will have a new circus featuring acrobats and horses.
The fair draws about 500,000 people each year.
“It’s looking like it’s going to be a great year for us this year,” Walker said. “We’ve got new and exciting entertainment that’s going to bring the family crowds back in. We are preparing for a big crowd.”
The fair opens at 3 p.m. Thursday and after that will be open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.