How To Have a Cow

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Aug. 26 2008 3:42 PM

How To Have a Cow

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At the Minnesota State Fair, awe-struck children used to peer into a hatching incubator to watch baby chicks peck their way out of their shells. That just doesn't cut it anymore. This year, visitors to the fair, which runs from Aug. 21 to Sept. 1, will encounter an 18,000 square-foot "maternity pen" to showcase the first messy moments of much larger animals. Thanks to fertility-management techniques, lucky visitors to the "Miracle of Birth" exhibit can watch a mother cow expel a live newborn calf at least once daily (occasionally with the help of "snares, hooks, and calf jacks"). If you happen to miss it, the facility runs videos of deliveries from previous days on overhead plasma screens.

Bleacher seating allows fairgoers to rest their feet while the animal kingdom replenishes itself below. A "lambing protocol"  instructs volunteer workers that the placenta is "fascinating to the audience and description of its function is a good topic for discussion" (see Page 3). The "farrowing protocol" for swine births (see Page 2) urges volunteers, "ABSOLUTELY, MAKE SURE PIGLETS ARE RETURNED TO THEIR RIGHTFUL MOTHER!!" After a calf is delivered (see below), "You can swing, pump chest, slap, lift up rear or whatever but please don't hang over a gate." In "emergencies such as bleeding," cows should be removed to a "curtained area," so as not to "freak out" the customers.

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