The dog days of summer. That definition was burned into my brain recently when I attended the opening of the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Stepping out of my icy, cool car, into the blast furnace called Iowa in August, I quickly realized my sweat glands were working overtime to try to cool me; and that I had pores in places I never expected!

With sweat dripping from my brow at the admissions gate, my first thought was to make my way to a place where I could get some photos and try to stay cool.

That’s why I made a bee-line for the livestock barns and found what I will now forever call the “oasis of swine.” I knew I was onto something because hundreds of people were hanging out in the cool shaded alley ways, milling about the show rings and sitting in bleachers set up around the show rings.

Two things went through my mind at that point. After covering the fair for nearly a decade, I had never seen so many people hanging out with the hogs. The second thought, as the cool comfortable air soothed me, was that I’m not leaving here anytime soon…

As I walked around the barn it occurred to me that the fair was no different than many of the farms I’ve been to over the years. The farmers, and young people involved with the FFA and 4H, use every tool at their hands (cool misting machines, large fans, plenty of water and precious shade) to keep the animals and themselves comfortable from the heat. On farms across the state, I’ve witnessed several farmers give their hogs cool buildings to stay in or plenty of water and shade for cattle to go to when the heat is on.

It’s the same in the winter, when farmers often stay up through the night making sure their animals are warm, fed and watered.

Back at the Fair, believe me, everyone in the livestock barn knew that  just outside the doors of the barn it was an inferno: the mercury was soaring into the mid 90’s and heat indexes were becoming oppressive in the low hundreds. And soon, hundreds of fair goers discovered that livestock barns offered a place to escape the heat while learning more about the farmers and animals that provide their food.

Written by Joe Murphy
Joe is a photographer and writer for Iowa Farm Bureau.