Prancing with the pigs
By Gary Popp
Published in News on September 30, 2011 1:46 PM
Keiley Severson, a first-grader at LaGrange Elementary School, wore a plaid shirt, cowboy boots and a big smile, minus two front teeth, as she made her way around the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair indoor arena Thursday, guiding her hog in the Junior Market Hog competition.
Unlike some of the older youths who participated, the show ring was new territory for the 6-year-old.
"This is my first time showing a pig, ever," she said.
Keiley said she prepared by practicing with her grandfather to get her animal ready to show.
"We worked with him, brushed him and gave him a bath," she said.
Keiley said she wasn't sure what it was she liked best about participating in the hog showing, but she said she was having fun.
Keiley shared some of the tips taught to her by "my Pa."
"Just stay on the right side of the pig and keep your eyes on the judge," she said between giggles.
Later in the show, Keiley held a large blue ribbon for winning top prize for market hog in her age group.
"I did super-really good," she proudly told her mother.
Keiley said she was going to go pin the ribbon on her bedroom wall and maybe take it to school for show-and-tell.
Keiley also earned first place in showmanship for her age group.
Cooperative Extension Agent Elieen Coite said the Junior Hog Show has many benefits for the children who compete.
"It teaches the kids responsibility. They have had these animals for at least two or three months and they have to check on them a least twice a day and watch how they grow and keep them healthy," Ms. Coite said.
She said the majority of the competitors come from families that are in the hog business, but that some of them are from urban areas and got involved in showing livestock through their friends.
She said the exposure a young person can receive by showing goes beyond agricultural skills.
"It gets them out in a crowd. They are presenting this animal in front of an audience and judge who is asking them questions," Ms. Coite said. "Not only is it work at home, but it is also presentation skills and builds their confidence."
The youths at the show ranged from complete novices to experienced veterans like 14-year-old Jacob Sauls, who has been showing livestock for 10 years.
Jacob said he enjoys showing hogs, but there is a lot of training required to prepare for an event.
"You have to have lot of time with the hogs and moving them around to get them agile enough to be in the ring," he said.
The high school freshman said that during his years of competition, he has learned a lot about caring for animals.
Jacob said he has been taught about the appropriate diet for a hog, types of medication to keep it from getting ill, as well as the different parts of the hog and the types of meat it can produce.
He also provided some valuable advice to other youths who might be less experienced.
"Basically, just have fun," Jacob said. "I just go out there, have fun and see what I get. It isn't about the ribbons or anything. It's about having fun."
Another show veteran, Avery Faulker, 18, of LaGrange, is participating in his last junior show before aging out.
In his 12-year career as a junior contestant, Avery has shown hogs, cattle and goats.
While Avery might no longer qualify for junior shows, he intends on taking his competitive showing to another level.
"My plans for the future is to continue raising goats and cattle and show them," he said.
Avery said he looks forward to returning in future years to share his knowledge of livestock to younger competitors.
"I don't mind mentoring people whatsoever. That is how I learned, and I am happy to pass it along," Avery said. "I will teach anybody who wants to learn how to show livestock."
Avery compared leaving his long tenure in the junior ranks to another recent experience in his life.
"It is kind of like graduating high school," he said. "You get so used to doing something and you get to where it is enjoyable and you love what you do and then, yeah, you have to step away from it."
Avery said his grandparents first got him involved in shows to teach him responsibility and to build character.
"That is what is has done for me overall, and the more I did it the more I fell in love with it," Avery said. "There is nothing like showing."