Seeing the birth of a farm animal is an experience state Department of Agriculture officials hope to bring to the 500,000 people who visit the Georgia National Fair each year.
Georgians are getting more and more removed from the state’s agricultural roots, said Jack Spruill, the department’s marketing director. Those living in rural parts of the state also may not have witnessed the birth of livestock.
“Even if you’re in rural Georgia, there’s such a thing as timing,” he said. “You have to be in the right place at the right time. So we’re going to put you in the right place at the right time.”
Dairy cows need to get pregnant this week to be ready to give birth when the fair opens Oct. 4, Spruill said. The fair is working with two farms, one for the cows and a second for hogs, with the goal of having one live birth on each of the 11 days of the event.
Minnesota has had the Miracle of Birth attraction at its state fair since 2001, and it quickly became the event’s most popular free exhibit, said Mark Goodrich, deputy general manager for the Minnesota State Fair.
Spruill said when he visited the Minnesota fair to see how it handles its birthing center, he was amazed by how popular it was.
“(People) come and stand for four hours and wait for this mama cow to have this baby,” Spruill said. “And stay another hour to see that baby cow take its first steps.”
Though Minnesota’s fair has six animal species that give birth to about 200 babies during its 12-day fair, Georgia will only feature cows and hogs.
State Rep. Terry England, a farmer, said many Georgians are so many generations removed from agricultural living, it makes it hard for consumers to connect a farm animal to the food that they eat.
“A lot of folks think that milk comes from the dairy case at the Kroger or wherever they do their shopping,”the Auburn Republican said. “They don’t realize the milk comes from a cow.”
Officials are preparing for the fact that sometimes the baby animals don’t make it.
“Every once in a while there will be a stillborn calf,” Goodrich said of cases in Minnesota. “The vets explain the situation and explain why this could happen. It’s been fairly positive. It’s sad and people feel really bad about things, but I think they also understand.”
England, who serves on a legislative overview committee for the fair, said he hopes the Georgia birthing center is as successful as the one in Minnesota.
“It’s going to be quite an attraction,” Spruill said. “And we believe it’s going to build on itself.”