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County fair report: Hay for elephants

TAGS: Forage 4H
ribbon and paper on hay bale
HAY FOR ELEPHANTS: Ashley Hermann and her family raise hay that winds up feeding elephants and other animals at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Commentary: You never know what you may learn at a county fair!

Judging crops and other projects at county fairs in Indiana is a hobby of mine. After nearly a decade of judging and asking 4-H’ers questions, I finally received an answer that left me speechless. Talking to 4-H members is the primary reason I agree to judge at county fairs. It’s interesting to see how young 4-H’ers explain what they’ve done with their projects.

Judging at the Franklin County 4-H Fair in Brookville this summer, I prepared to look at Ashley Herrmann’s sample of timothy hay. I asked young Ashley a simple question: What are you going to feed your hay to?

“Elephants and other zoo animals,” she answered, without laughing.

Elephants? She was kidding, right?

No, she wasn’t kidding. Her dad confirmed it.

He noted that for the past few years, they’ve sold hay to the Cincinnati Zoo. Someone from the zoo comes and samples the hay to make sure it meets their specifications, he said.

So do elephants like timothy hay? Apparently they do — and I was in no position to argue. I’ve had 4-H’ers tell me they were going to feed hay to beef cattle, dairy calves and dairy cows, horses — lots of horses. They also sometimes feed their hay to goats. But I’ve never had anyone tell me they were going to feed hay to elephants.

So before you decide a youngster doesn’t know what he or she is talking about, maybe you better check with their parents. Young Ashley was 100% correct. And if you visit the Cincinnati Zoo anytime soon, you can tell everyone you see that you know where the hay for their elephants comes from!

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