Farmer shares baby animals at Clinton County Fair

Ron Beck holds onto Strawberry, a Quarter Horse, left, and her 8-week-old baby. At top, Beck’s exhibit also includes, from left, a mother goat and her twin babies, just a few days old; “Doris,” a Jersey dairy cow, whose 10-day-old baby is nursing; and a Hereford sow with her 6-week-old babies. LANA MUTHLER/ THE EXPRESS

MACKEYVILLE — There are lots of animals at the Clinton County Fair, as 4-H members prepare their cows, pigs, horses, sheep, goats, rabbits and other animals for competition, showing the judges how well they have cared for their animals over the past year … all the while hoping for a blue ribbon.

But this year, there’s a special group of animals that have nothing to do with competitions and blue ribbons.

And it’s a really big hit.

Ron Beck of Loganton has been working for months to gather a group of mother animals and their babies together for exhibit at the fair this year. He’s tried to breed the females at just the right time for them to give birth at this fair time of year. And he’s been quite successful.

Fairgoers were actually able to witness the birth of a beautiful little white baby goat last Sunday.

“They announced it over the loudspeaker that one of the momma goats was giving birth and everybody ran to the barn,” Beck said, as he held the 2-day-old baby in his arms. The baby goat weighs about three pounds, he said.

In the same pen there are five other mother goats and six babies. All the mothers are first-time mothers. One had twins, he said, pointing to the black mother goat and her two babies, whose coats are white with some black. Beck said the father of the twins was brown and he specially bred them hoping to get dark-colored goats.

Other baby animals were born just last week and are only days old.

A stroll down the lane alongside the nine pens holding Beck’s animals is a wonderful experience, as adults and youngsters find themselves spending considerable time watching how the mother animals tend to their young babies, oftentimes getting to see some of the babies nurse and romp around. Other babies seem content to cuddle up against their mother and sleep.

In the first pen, Doris, a Jersey dairy cow, is taking care of her 10-day-old sons. They were born just before the fair began. Stick around long enough and visitors will see them nurse, at least one of them. The other seemed content lying in the corner enjoying a welcome breeze on a hot Tuesday afternoon.

“These are some of the prettiest cows,” Beck said, rubbing his hand over their sandy brown fur. “They’re really calm, too,” he said as a young girl walked close enough to pet one of the babies. “They won’t hurt you,” he continued standing close by to ease her fears.

Next door, a 4-year-old Hereford cow kept close to her baby… born just 10 days ago. She seemed to be protecting the little calf from those passing by.

A quarterhouse named Strawberry was in the next pen caring for her 8-week-old baby, and a miniature pony named Misty was down the line with her baby pony, also 8 weeks old.

In the next pen… there was no mother or baby, but a real attraction to the fair, nonetheless.

It’s Eeyore, a 15-year-old miniature donkey, who’s been waking up 4-Hers at 4 a.m. each day since the fair began. His distinct braying sound can easily be heard by campers sleeping adjacent to the animal barns.

“My grandkids and the other kids over here get him out at night and ride him all over the fairgrounds,” Beck said of the donkey, who delights with the attention he’s getting and lets himself be known by his loud, harsh cry.

Continuing the tour, a couple dozen just-hatched baby chicks are being kept warm in an incubator. They look like small balls of fur scampering around the circular warmer, picking up bits of chicken feed.

Next door, a mother Hereford sow seemed to be resting comfortably. Her 6-week-old babies were lying close to their mother… also napping. When Beck poured food into the pen, the piglets quickly got up and began eating under the watchful eyes of their momma.

As we reached the end of the line of pens, we didn’t see any babies in the last enclosure.

We saw a giant of a beast that took up half of the pen.

It’s Buddy, a 4 1/2-year-old male pig that weighs 1,200 pounds and looks like he could be pretty mean.

He’s huge and he’s ugly.

With one tusk jutting out from his lips, he put his face up against the bars of his pen and opened his mouth wide. I jumped back. Scary-looking is an understatement.

Beck wasn’t afraid, though. He got into the pen and tried to get Buddy to pose for the camera. I stuck around and tried to be patient, but it didn’t happen. Buddy wasn’t going to smile for the camera on this day.

Buddy eats about 20 pounds of food a day during the winter. Other times of the year… about 12 pounds, Beck said.

Buddy’s been retired from breeding and just spends his days lying around in his pen, Beck said of the gigantic pig that’s been a show-stopper at the fair.

Employed by the state Department of Agriculture, Beck also has his own farm with about 120 goats, 100 chickens and a few pigs.

So, he’s a busy man… a busy man who found time to bring something new to the fair this year just for the joy of others. And he’s already planning for next year… calculating when the goats and cows will have to be bred to deliver at fair time 2018. It takes five months for goats to have a baby, so he said he’ll be breeding them in February.

The exhibit has certainly added a bit of excitement to the fair, along with some educational fodder.

“I hope everyone is enjoying them. That’s why I brought them over. It’s nice to see people walk over here and get a smile on their face when they see them,” Beck said.