ROCK SPRINGS - Rain is often a welcomed sight for farmers with thirsty fields. Perhaps it is only fitting this year's Ag Progress Days was ushered in with overcast skies and showers.
Some attendees entering the event traded the gray skies for the white sheet metal ceiling of the College Exhibits Building, located along one of the roads leading onto the grounds.
"This morning, when it was pouring, people came running in," said Rebecca White, an employee with Penn State's Department of Animal Sciences.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Breanna Mitchell and Robert Duquay, both 17 and from Albion, compete in a milking competition Tuesday morning during Penn State University’s Ag Progress Days at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center in Rock Springs.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Glenn Kenny of Meadville examines a display of oxide sunflowers Tuesday morning during Ag Progress Days in Rock Springs. Kenny grows more than 300 species of native plants on his farm.
This year, the building is housing displays from the department, a part of the university's College of Agriculture. The event has traditionally had a focus on crops, White said, and this year is the first that every exhibit in the building is devoted to animal science.
Demonstrators delivered information on research being conducted in poultry, meat, veterinary and dairy sciences. On one side of the building was four cages holding chicks, and each of the most common materials used for poultry bedding: ground woods like pine, poplar and willow, and miscanthus grass.
"It's a nice little mix of animal science and horticulture," said undergraduate student Jason Doll, who was working the display.
Doll said the display was to provide information on upsides for producers of growing plants that can be used for bedding. Besides being cheaper, the plants make farms look better, limit dust and smells, and can be used as windbreaks, he said. After use as bedding, all can be burned for fuel.
Next to the poultry were tables devoted to veterinary science. One had videos and instruction on delivering calves and lambs safely.
The other featured information on parasites common in farm and domestic animals, like tapeworms and flukes. Specimens held in glass jars provided a visual for spectators.
A lot of livestock end up with parasites, research assistant Carol Burns said, and having a small number of them can even be good for an animal because they will develop an immunity to them.
"It's when they have an abundance of parasites when they get problems, like nutrition problems and anemia," Burns said.
Ways to prevent parasites include providing animals with good nutrition and having them routinely checked, Burns said.
Another table offered information on dry feed available for cows, including byproducts of other industries.
The idea behind the display is to give people an idea of what livestock are eating, what feeds are available, some alternatives and the price of feed, presenter Mat Haan said.
Using byproducts to feed cattle has a lot of benefits, Haan said. A cow can eat 50 pounds of dry feed a day, and byproducts are cheaper than other feeds and can reduce overhead for farmers.
Examples included canola meal, produced from making canola oil, and candy meal, given off from making chocolate.
Byproducts also offer a glimpse at the sustainability of agriculture by using waste to produce, he added.
"One of the biggest things about the byproducts is if they aren't fed to cattle, they would go to a landfill," Haan said.
The crowd in the building thinned out as the day wore on as attendees began arriving with rain gear and umbrellas, and showers slowed for a portion of the afternoon. Exhibits will be present for the rest of the event.
Several local businesses had spaces at the event to show off some of their wares and the weather impacted the number of people that stopped by to see what they had to offer.
Metzler Auto, Truck and Trailer of Martinsburg had assorted trailers on display. There were less people out than in years past but still a decent showing, salesman Andy Metzler said.
"Honestly, I was surprised at the number of people here, considering the conditions," Metzler said.
Martin's Welding, also of Martinsburg, showcased custom built truck bodies and a silage bed a few lots down from Metzler. It was pretty slow, and not many people stopped by, Bryan Martin said, but some visitors came from as far away as Virginia.
Martin and Metzler expect today to be busier, regardless of weather. Both have worked Ag Progress Days before, and both said that Wednesday is the busiest day of the show.
Ag Progress Days continues today from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.