The unbearable heat and humidity which hit Indiana on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 3rd and 4th, did more than mess up photosynthesis in corn plants and reduce corn yields. The heat index rose to 115 degrees according to published reports. An anecdotal report said the state fair electronic billboard in the middle of the concrete jungle of Indianapolis showed 102 degrees F on Wednesday afternoon. Pigs arrived Tuesday evening, Wednesday and Thursday until noon. Although heat can stress all species, pigs are one of the least equipped to deal with heat since they don't have sweat glands.
According to sources at the state fair, as many as 12 hogs died from Tuesday evening through Wednesday. Heat and stress was the outright cause of death. Some of the cases were blamed on taking pigs to wash racks that were already overheated to cool them down. Too much cold water hitting a pig's entire body can cause shock that can result in death.
For years, common knowledge among those that raised and showed pigs was not to pour cold water on their backs if pigs were overheated. At the time, pigs had backfats of an inch or more in thickness. That's not preached so much these days. However, most sources suggest wetting pigs around the nose area and getting them to drink if they are severely stressed, as opposed to blasting them with cold water over their back from a hose.
Unofficial reports say it's the most deaths of hogs reported at the Indiana State Fair since 1999. An anonymous official said that walking into the barn on Wednesday was like walking into a wall of heat.
The sheep barn was air-conditioned several years ago and is used for other events when not in use during the fair. Comfort levels have also been upgraded in the cattle barn. The hog barn remains the one livestock structure hat has undergone very little renovation in several decades.
Each 4-H'er is limited to bringing a maximum of two barrows and two gilts. They are also allotted one pen no matter how many they bring. Still, hog numbers were high enough this year that pens were used on the breezeway on the north end of the building, not used unless there is an absolute need, and makeshift pens were set up in other areas on the north side of the building.