My Sky Color

A forty something Dad, Husband, Engineer guy living in Western Oregon. Reflections on all things in life. A few technical things and whatever else comes along.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pig Farming After Action Report

The week of the fair was a busy fun educational experience.  On Wednesday, I came home from work around lunch time, changed clothes and headed out to load the show pig, Disney.  I explained to everyone that we needed to be patient and it would all work out.  After Disney figured out that we wanted her to get in the trailer, she did everything she could to avoid that trailer.  It has been awhile since I have helped load horses into a trailer so I had to do some thinking to remember the trick for uncooperative critters.  I wanted to be careful so Disney didn't look like she had come through a battle getting to the fair.  I retreived some nylon webbing tied it up front in the trailer and ran it back out the door.  We got her up to the trailer, looped the webbing around her butt and yarded her in.  We gave her a bath in the trailer as it was a clean piece of ground.  Then we threw in some clean straw and hit the road.  It took 45 minutes to load the pig.  I have some ideas for next year.  We had to all change clothes again before we left.

Everyone at the fair was really nice and helpful.  The 4-H people's mentality is that its all for the young people.  Having fun is a big part of it too.  After arriving and getting her unloaded, we let things settle down then headed for the official final wash job.  Disney just puts on the brakes when she doesn't want to do something.  Both front legs are braced up solid and the only way to move her is to push.

Thursday morning start early is "weigh-in."  In April there was a weigh-in and the pigs got their ear tags with a certain number.  This weigh-in for showing required the ear tag number correlate to the previous weigh-in.  The pigs have to weigh between 230 and 280 pounds.  This is so they are competitive against each other.  We watch close to 100 pigs get weighed and it was really hard to predict what one might weigh.  If the pig is outside the weight limits a guy pulls out a pair of wire cutters and clips off the ear tag and you are disqualified from showing...  It is pretty rough on the youth.  So Disney was looking like she would be on the high end of the boundaries.  She maxed out the scale at over 300 pounds.

There were some tears and angry words.  The Mrs. and I felt badly but really didn't know what we could have done differently.  We had searched for a scale about 3 weeks before the fair because we didn't know where we were for weight.  After the weighing we found out that he still would get to show conformation but in a heavy weight class.  Remember this is out first time at all this.  We met some people that had a pig that looked very similar to ours, they are sisters.  She was overweight too.  So it is a family trait.

We learned from some pig farmers that these were just fast growing stock.  The birthdate was right to make weight.  So junior got to show against his pig's sister.  There were only two 4-H pigs in the heavy weight class.

So she got second against her sis.  She did have a bum leg so that didn't help.  Junior had a huge fan club show up to see him show, family and friends came from all over.

On Friday, he was in a showmanship class with 7 others and took 3rd place.  I think that is pretty good for his first time.  He really did look confident.  He had worked with one of the two pigs almost everyday for about 5 weeks.  The second showing was better for Disney too.  We had learned from some new 4-H friends to give her asprin for some relief from here leg injury.

Due to the overweight thing, he didn't get to praticipate in the auction on Saturday.  This was a big part of the disappointment with the weight problem.  Typically the pigs sell for at least $3 per pound with the high this year being $12.50.  There was an $8 but most were in the $3.50-$4.50 range.  The market price is $0.75.  Many businesses and family push the price up as a money maker for the youths.  He had arranged a buyer up front with a price that was better than break even but not like the auction prices. 

Junior helped show a yearling nubian goat for a friend and had fun doing that, winning a reserve grand champion ribbon.

He didn't come away from the fair without a big award.  He had woven a scarf on mom's loom and entered it in the 4-H textile division.  It won champion and is headed for State competition.

All-in-all it was a good experience and everyone learned a lot.  Next year we will have a scale of some sort.

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