Farm Progress

Here are all the links for our coverage of champion livestock testing procedures at the Illinois State Fair, plus exhibitor experiences.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

January 24, 2017

3 Min Read

Looking for information about our series on drug testing at the Illinois State Fair? Look no further.

We’ve collected all three links to those stories here, in one location plus, plus a summary of each. Part 1 examined Adam Miller’s experience in nearly being disqualified from the Illinois State Fair when his steer tested positive for a drug that was approved for use in cattle 20 years ago. Part 2 looked at recommendations from the Illinois State Fair Advisory Board and the Illinois Livestock Working Group, and Part 3 covered Nalaney Guyer’s ongoing battle to be reinstated, following her disqualification for using an anti-itch cream.



BIG MOMENT: Young people from across the state work hard all year and compete at the Illinois State Fair, all for a chance to walk into the Coliseum and show for champion.

Link: Testing of Champions

When Adam Miller walked into the Coliseum at the Illinois State Fair for the Grand Champion Drive, he never dreamed his champion Angus steer might be disqualified. Yet just hours before the Sale of Champions was to occur, Illinois Department of Agriculture officials delivered a disqualification letter to Adam's parents, stating he was being disqualified because his steer’s urine had tested positive for ractopamine — commonly known as Optaflexx. Adam was lucky; his dad, Alan, holds a doctorate in animal nutrition and was able to bring a fellow nutritionist to the hearing, along with evidence that ractopamine is an FDA-approved compound. In the end, Adam was reinstated and the charges were dropped, but Alan asks the question, “We’re testing for miniscule amounts of something that cannot possibly give a competitive advantage or affect food safety. What’s the point of that?”

He continues, “It’s just getting out of hand. It goes back to the whole attitude that if somebody wins, they’re guilty of something. After going through the process, I’m glad it all worked out well for Adam, but it seems like there are a number of things that could be done to prevent these kinds of mistakes from being made.”


BETTER? The Livestock Working Group presented extensive recommendations to the Illinois State Fair Advisory Board, including a move that would allow FDA-approved compounds at slaughter.

Link: Illinois State Fair Advisory Board proposes drug testing changes

When the Illinois State Fair Advisory Board met prior to Christmas, it heard recommendations from the Livestock Working Group, an organization formed to collect data and information from surrounding state fairs, veterinarians and industry experts from across the country. The group used that information to formulate an eight-point set of recommendations, outlined in this story.

According to Becky Clark, Illinois Department of Agriculture communications manager, “The director appreciates the work that went into forming the Livestock Working Group’s recommendations, and will thoroughly review them. He is always willing to listen to or consider ideas that may positively impact the department or enhance its processes.”


BIG HUGS: Nalaney Guyer, 13, and her mom, Lucy, embrace following her Grand Champion Barrow win, as her dad, Dave, looks on.

Link: Anti-itch cream illegal?

The third story in this series shared Nalaney Guyer’s ongoing experience following her disqualification when her grand champion barrow tested positive for diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benadryl and found in anti-itch cream. Her family maintains they used the cream one time on July 21, under their veterinarian’s recommendation. FDA officials say topical use of diphenhydramine is neither approved nor prohibited in market swine, but could be used based on a veterinarian’s recommendation and following proper withdrawal times. Illinois State Fair does not provide a list of approved or prohibited drugs. Guyer, 14, has been banned from Illinois State Fair exhibition for three years.


About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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