GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — The Nebraska State Fair is full of fun, but it's also full of information that can help fairgoers get to know the world around them better.
That was especially true of Zella Briggs' fifth-grade class from Custer Intermediate School in Broken Bow. The class, along with hundreds of other schoolchildren, learned about one of Nebraska's most important economic drivers — agriculture — while visiting the fair this week.
The students visited the State Fair's livestock facilities and the Birthing Pavilion, which is in the Sheep Barn.
“They are so cute,” 10-year-old Edwin Gonzalez said of the baby animals at the Birthing Pavilion. Edwin said he had never visited a farm.
The Birthing Pavilion features cows, sheep and hogs that give birth during the fair, as well as chicks that hatch. There have been a number of births already since the fair opened.
Along with the miracle of birth, Racheal Slattery, a staff member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said the kids and teachers also learn what veterinarians do and how farmers and ranchers take care of the animals.
“They get to see how much these animals mean to us even though they are going to become our nutrition and food source one of these days,” Slattery said.
The children also learned about nonfood items that come from livestock, courtesy of members of the Nebraska Cattlewomen, who had a display in the Birthing Pavilion.
“From cows, we get leather and glue and other things,” said Dylan Baum, a fifth-grader from Broken Bow.
Even though the students are from a rural community, Briggs said, they aren't exposed to livestock as much as people may assume. “Some of them don't know the value of agriculture in Nebraska,” Briggs said, “and this is a good opportunity to learn that.”
As of Tuesday, Slattery said, a lamb, a dairy calf and two sets of piglets had been born at the 2013 Nebraska State Fair.
Seeing the birth of an animal imprints on a child, Slattery said. It helps put the animal in a different perspective instead of just as a piece of meat served on a plate or between two pieces of bread.