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. Have you ever heard of the sport of showing livestock? No! Let me tell you a bit about it.
Aren’t All Pigs the Same?
The simple answer to that question would be no but let me explain a bit more.
For swine producers there are two types of production, commercial hogs and 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. Quality animal care and handling are musts for producers.
The Sport of Showing Livestock
Then there is the other side of swine. Showing livestock. These producers are striving not so much for numbers but for animal perfection.
Creating a perfect hog is their dream goal. An animal that has good muscling, heavy boned, solid structure that will last and all of these qualities must continue to the next generation. Sounds easy?!?! Not so much.
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.
The Biggest Challenge for Most Exhibitors
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 hard work end. This is something that kids learn along the way to prepare for but it still can be challenging.
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.
Please show them the same respect that you would an athlete who practices everyday. These kids have worked hard to get to where they are today. Some kids may play sports but right now my children show pigs.