The heat is on around the Central Coast.
While the fair officially starts Wednesday, the Fairpark is already full of hundreds of local agriculture students, who moved their livestock in the barns over the weekend.
The move coincided with the a record-breaking heat wave over the weekend.
“Over at the ranch, it was 107 degrees at the top of the hill where all the cattle are, so that was really hard to get through, but we got them here,” said Nipomo FFA member Devin Diaz.
The soon-to-be senior spent Monday in the livestock section tending to his steer in effort to help his animal beat the heat.
“We put fans on them, spray them with cool water, keep their heads wet, keep them shaved because their head is where they regulate the temperature of their body,” said Diaz.
While the temperatures were still a bit warm in Santa Maria on Monday, there was also a welcome overcast sky overhead.
“In the Santa Ynez Valley, it’s been pretty hot. It was 110 degrees this weekend, it’s been way up there, but here it’s a lot a cooler,” said Lucky Clover 4-H member Grant Solem. “I’m really happy. It was so hot in Santa Ynez.”
Like Diaz, Solem also has a steer he’s showing at the fair. He said it’s vital to keep the animals feeling comfortable.
“You have to keep them cool or they’ll anxious and they’ll not be themselves, they won’t drink, they’ll just get hot and not feel well,” Solem said.
Solem added that cattle is better equipped to handle the heat more than other animals.
Next door to the cattle is the swine barn, where students worked hard to make sure their animals were staying comfortable.
“It’s crucial to make sure that they’re staying healthy,” said Nipomo FFA member Jenna Moore. “Pigs can’t handle heat very well because they don’t sweat, so it’s really important that you’re cooling them down with water throughout the day to cool them down a lot.”
Like a lot of other students, Moore used a spray water throughout the day, watering her animal continuously.
Moore said it was especially important because the heat could impact the safety of her pig.
“They can often get stressed out, Moore said. “They’ll stop eating and it can cause a lot of health problems for them.”
A few barns away, fellow Nipomo FFA member Sadie Krier also made sure her turkey was staying hydrated and as cool as comfortable.
“It’s (the heat) hard on the turkeys and animals because they overheat and some have even died from it, so this year it’s been pretty bad on them,” Krier said.
Unlike cattle, Krier noted how difficult it is for the turkeys and other feathered livestock to handle extreme heat.
“Since they’re so fluffy and have so many feathers and they’re bred to be fat, the heat soaks into them, so they can overheat and die,” Krier said.
Krier added the poultry barn was significantly cooler this year thanks to a number of fans brought in by the Fairpark Foundation.
“We brought some more fans,” said foundation president Rebecca Barks. “Not only to cool off the animals and exhibitors, but the people coming in and out of those barns because it is hot.”
Barks added the Fairpark Foundation also helped with renovating the auction barn with some much needed improvements.
“The auction barn can be very hot,” Barks said. “Not only is it hot for the animals that are being shown, and also for potential buyers at the auction.”
“What we were able to do is get some more doors built, which gives a little more ventilation,” said Barks. “We also went with a new cool system on the roof, so if all works well together, we’re going to have some nice cooling going on.”
Barks said the new and improved was tested Thursday and passed with flying colors. Now, comes the big test when the auction is held later this week.
“We’re hoping as of tomorrow, it’s going to be in full bloom,” said Barks. “We’re going to keep it cool for the exhibitors, the animals and the buyers.”
With cooler temperatures on the way for the rest of the week, students are happy to see the heat start to go away.
“It’s definitely a relief to know throughout the week that it’s going to start cooling down, especially since the shows are going to start,” said Moore. “It’s going to become a more stressful time for us and the animals.”
The Santa Barbara County Fair begins Wednesday, July 11 and concludes Sunday, July 15.