The Sport of Showing Livestock

Our homestead is not your typical farm set up.  While we try to keep things as simple as possible there is always the issue of show pigs.

For swine producers there are two types of production, commercialized show pig.  While both produce more pigs their goals are very different.

Commercial producers are working to create food and lots of it to feed our nation.  They also have to meet high quality standards created and constantly changing because of government regulations and our society. This makes their job as a livestock producer challenging but rewarding.  

Then there is the other side of swine. Showing livestock.  These producers are striving not so much for numbers but for animal perfection.  One that has good muscling, heavy boned, solid structure that will last and all of these qualities must continue to the next generation. Sound easy?!?!

Adding to this the demands of showmen and you get a stressful recipe.  A great example is youth showing at county fairs.  Many of these kids take showing very seriously, as though it’s their sport.  But how hard can it be? You just need the best pig right?

Well it is tougher than you think. In the highly competitive sport of showing livestock pigs are purchased for a large amount of money. We sell our pigs for around 250 a piece but have had them auction for much higher in the past. And if you are shocked by that number let me tell you we are on the low end of sale prices.

So after pigs are purchased you begin the task of feeding and daily care for the next four months. Feeding is a challenging task requiring a high protein diet. And pigs eat a LOT! Kids will pay from anywhere between 400-700 dollars to feed their pigs to get them to market weight. Not all feed quality is the same so you need to really look at your product labels.

Time spent on the project is a daily event. Not just feeding and watering but walking, yes walking, your pigs everyday for at least thirty minutes. Conditioning them for the long show really helps them to keep from getting stressed in the show ring.

Thenthe day of the show will finally arrive. Pigs are prepped for the show. Given baths, ears washed, hair trimmed and made to look as fresh and youthful as possible. The kids do this to themselves as well to match their projects with pride.

The show will progress. Winners will be announced and awarded. Youth will congradulate others and thank the judge. Youth are taught at a young age to show good sportsmanship which is wonderful.

Sales for many of the youth are the hardest part. While selling your project is expected at the end, you are still sad to see your hardwork end.

So the next time you are at a county fair please don’t think that the pig project comes easy for the youth participating. Remember it started four months earlier with a choice, good feeding, watering, walking and general care daily to get to the final show. Some kids may play sports but right now my children show pigs.

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