VIDEO REPORT: Drought Blamed for Cow Chip Shortage

By: Tim Elliott Email
By: Tim Elliott Email

UPDATED Thursday, August 30, 2012 --- 7:15 a.m.

SAUK CITY, Wis. (AP) -- The drought is causing an unusual problem for one southern Wisconsin festival -- a shortage of cow chips.

The Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival in Prairie du Sac uses hundreds of the flatted and dried cow manure pieces for their annual competition that starts Friday.

Organizers discovered in July the numbers and quality of manure were poor because of the heat and dry weather.

So the organizers had to dip into reserves.

One of the organizers, Marietta Reuter, says she's never experienced such a shortage in her 24 years at the festival.

The grounds chair, Russ Ballweg, says they plan to go out more often next year so they don't have the same problem and can replenish their reserves.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.


Posted Thursday, August 23, 2012 --- 5:45 p.m.

We're learning that the drought is impacting a tradition in our area, one you may take your family to each year. Every Labor Day weekend, tens of thousands of people herd into Prairie du Sac for the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throwing Contest and Festival.

Organizers say this year, there's a shortage of chips. But don't worry, they have a back up plan in place.

“Found you a few chips here!” said farmer Russel Ballweg. “Like here, this would be a really good throwing one,”

Ballweg shows off some quality cow chips.

“It's got a nice weight to it,”

Ballweg helps organize the annual Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throwing Contest and Festival.

“Get the right grip on it and give it a wing!” Ballweg says as he hurls one across his lawn.

But the #1 problem this summer has to do with number 2.

“There is a little bit of a shortage because of the drought.

The extreme heat and dry conditions means cow chips are scarce.

“It's like putting it in an oven, it'll just cook it and it just shatters when it gets that dry,” said Ballweg.

“We're pretty picky about our cow chips,”

Ellen Paulson is the chairperson of the event.

“I think it's quirky!” she said.

She says every year, they collect about 1,000 chips for the festival.

“In July, the committee as a group go out and we go wandering the fields to go pick up cow chips,” she explained.

This year, they only collected about 500.

“We didn't find nearly as many as we usually do,” said Ballweg.

Organizers say they have a reserve stash of cow chips held over from last year's competition. They say those couple hundred cow chips will make up for this year's shortage.

“But we tend to always pick extra every year so even though we are short this year, we'll still have enough courtesy of the fact that we have some left over from last year,” said Paulson.

These chips are from last year.

“Keep 'em inside, where it's dry and they keep very well,”

After this year's event, organizers say there probably won't be any chips left over for next year.

“We are not going to have a carry over like we normally do,”

“If next year if we have the same weather problem then we are going to be in deep doo-doo as we say!” laughed Paulson.

The Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throwing Contest and Festival will be held next Friday and Saturday (Labor Day weekend) at Marion Park in Prairie du Sac.

And it's much more than just a cow chip throw! There's entertainment, a 5k run/walk and lots of food.

This is the 38th annual event and admission is free.

For more info, check out their website at

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