Ohio State Fair lambs disqualified after tests find traces of ractopamine

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SALEM, Ohio – In August 2003, 17-year-old Ryan Daulton said it was a dream come true. He’d wanted to win Ohio State Fair champion lamb honors his whole life.

The little Hampshire he’d picked out at a Kentucky farm when it was just two weeks old turned out to be a good sheep as Daulton watched it grow.

It got even better when it started to win.

In its five-show career, the lamb took fifth place and won the other four, including the biggest win of all in Columbus.

Daulton’s win was extra special as he topped the field of 1,035 lambs – the largest junior fair lamb show ever at the state fair.

Going down fast. But the young man’s dream toppled quickly when tests revealed traces of ractopamine in the lamb’s system.

Now, Ohio Agriculture Director Fred Dailey has disqualified Daulton’s lamb, plus the lambs of two Delaware County sisters, after each tested positive for ractopamine.

The feed additive is more commonly recognized under the trade name Paylean. It is a performance-enhancing nutritional supplement not approved for use in sheep.

Sister act. The Delaware County sister act is Elizabeth Shellhouse, 18, and Emily Shellhouse, 11.

Elizabeth showed the third place market lamb at the Ohio State Fair. Emily showed the grand champion market lamb at the 2003 Delaware County Fair in September.

Not again. This isn’t the Shellhouses’ first run-in with ractopamine.

In July 2003, Farm and Dairy reported Elizabeth Shellhouse and her mother, Teri, were disqualified from the 2002 Sheep Youth Extravaganza after their lambs tested positive for ractopamine.

Elizabeth Shellhouse showed both the grand and reserve champions at that show. Her mother was implicated because she signed Drug Use Notification Forms for her daughter, who was a minor at the time.

In earlier interviews, the Shellhouse family maintained its innocence at the Extravaganza and stated that they believed they may have been sabotaged.

The Shellhouses could not be reached for comment.

The department of agriculture isn’t jumping to conclusions nor making allegations about the latest findings.

“They’re innocent until proven guilty,” said Melanie Wilt, department spokesperson.

One answer. The Daulton family has gotten at least one answer that helps explain its frustration.

Diligent recordkeeping and animal management journals helped them trace the problem to a batch of contaminated feed manufactured by Rowe Premix Inc. of West Manchester.

Ryan Daulton picked up bags from that batch of feed July 29 as he prepared for the trip to Columbus. He wanted to have fresh feed for the fair, he said.

“I had one extra bag of old feed. If I had fed that, nothing would have happened,” he reflected.

His lamb, already pushing the show’s 135-pound weight limit, was held back and had only eaten 18 ounces of the contaminated feed in the two days prior to the drug test.

According to Daulton, the feed company has already owned up to the mistake and is cooperating with the family.

“We’re mad at the feed company, yes, but we’re all human. Mistakes happen,” said JoyceAnn Daulton, Ryan’s mother.

Under investigation. Rowe Premix is under investigation by the department in connection with this case for mislabeling and adulterating commercial feed, violations of the Ohio Feed Law.

Though they had also purchased feed from Rowe, the state department of agriculture was not able to link the contaminated feed with the Shellhouses, according to Melanie Wilt.

Latest order. Under Dailey’s latest order, the three owners will forfeit awards, prizes, premiums, and proceeds earned from each show.

“The animals clearly tested positive for an unapproved substance, which gave them an unfair competitive advantage in the show ring,” Dailey said. “Since there was no evidence of intentional misconduct, I am not proposing the exhibitors be disqualified from future shows.”

Not well and good. That proposal isn’t copacetic with the Daultons.

“They say they’re only disqualifying him from this, but they might as well have kicked him out of 4-H and the show ring. No judge in this country will never let him win ever again,” said Dennis Daulton of his son’s predicament.

Before news spread, Daulton took top honors in Brown County’s 4-H show in September. He’s won that title for the past six years, his parents said.

Withholding? “[The department of agriculture] pushed back our hearing, won’t give us our test results,” Dennis Daulton said, noting ODA tested other show animals and feeds on their farm at the family’s request.

“It’s almost like [Fred] Dailey, [Virgil] Strickler and [David] Glauer think they’re God and can do whatever they want to anybody. These people make and then break their own rules,” Dennis Daulton asserted.

Glauer is the state veterinarian and chief of the department of agriculture’s division of animal industry.

Strickler is assistant general manager of the Ohio Expo Center and state fair.

ODA’s Wilt said the department has no provision for discovery during administrative hearings.

“If an attorney asks for reports, we will work with them. I’m sure the legal counsels will talk” and sort out the situation, Wilt said.

Against the rules? Dennis Daulton admitted he’s racked with guilt, citing a mandatory livestock tampering exhibition rule that says “no person shall … show, sell or offer for sale any livestock which contains an unlawful substance … .”

Even before the Sale of Champions at the state fair, the Daulton family and the department of agriculture was aware something was amiss.

Initial urine tests gave a presumptive positive result, according to Melanie Wilt.

“But we never take action on a presumptive. We always run the additional confirmation tests,” to be absolutely sure, Wilt said.

Results from the next round of testing were still out and the show had to go on.

Against his wishes, Ryan Daulton said he was forced to take his lamb and a half-hearted smile to the purple circle for the auction.

He fetched a high bid of $20,000 from Kroger. Deep down, he was devastated and ashamed.

“We just told him to keep his head up because he did nothing wrong,” JoyceAnn Daulton said.

“But we really felt like we were deceiving Kroger,” Dennis Daulton said.

Wilt said the department received a confirmed positive from urine tests Aug. 22.

The young man has yet to collect any of the animal’s sale money or premiums from other lambs’ placings at the fair, according to his mother.

Hearing. The exhibitors have 30 days from the date of the director’s notice to request a hearing.

If a hearing date is requested, the parties would individually present their cases to an independent hearing officer before a final recommendation is made to Dailey for administrative action.

The Daultons’ lawyer has already requested that hearing. Their original date of Jan. 5 was “continued” by the department of agriculture until a later date.

The family plans to fight the disqualification as far as they can.

“This may end up causing us tens of thousands of dollars and I don’t know if we can win. But we’ll do it to maybe get the rules changed to protect the next kid this will happen to,” Dennis Daulton said.

(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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