The annual show pig season arrives each fall. Shows at achievement days and state fairs are the culmination of hard work, dedication, and a deep appreciation for the art of raising and showing pigs. Show pig season, often a highlight for agricultural communities, offers a unique perspective of the agricultural industry. Pigs are carefully selected from breeders, considering factors like breed, conformation, and temperament. The process of raising pigs to show involves a delicate balance of proper nutrition, exercise, and grooming.
The goal of nutrition is to allow the pigs to grow and maximize muscle on a healthy and supportive skeleton. Therefore, specific show pig diets may be fed as the daily ration from weaning to showing or, at least, before introducing grain and soybean meal diets. Feeders should be checked daily to ensure everything is in working order and feed delivery is not blocked. Clean water must be provided through nipples, cups, or troughs that are kept clean and with the correct water flow rates.
Show pig training and exercise should begin at least 60 to 90 days before the show. Ideally, training starts when animals are brought home and continues throughout the development of the pigs. Working pigs in groups to begin with can be helpful, with at least one person per animal. Initial training should be 5 minutes, because pigs and people will get tired and frustrated with longer sessions. Daily sessions should build on the successes of previous sessions towards the ultimate goal that pigs are able to withstand 30 to 40 minutes of showmanship commands.
As the show season approaches, participants learn about pig behavior and showmanship, developing a strong connection with their animals, and understanding their quirks and personalities. This bond is integral to success in the show ring, where the handler’s ability to present the pig and showcase its best qualities can make all the difference.
Each pig is groomed meticulously and strategically such that their coats make them look denser and stouter overall but with a few areas clipped tighter. Suggestions include:
- Trim hair to 1 inch on their back, blending to a half-inch or quarter-inch into the center groove.
- Trim neck and chest to a half-inch or quarter-inch hair length.
- Remove long chin and snout hairs.
After clipping, pigs should be brushed and bathed with soap and water before oil is applied using a soft bristle brush.
Beyond the Show
The show season is not just about competition; it is also a platform for learning and networking. Exhibitors and spectators alike gather to exchange knowledge, share experiences, and celebrate their agricultural heritage. Show season sheds light on the challenges and realities of agriculture. It highlights the importance of responsible animal husbandry, sustainable farming practices, and the vital role that farmers play in providing food for communities. Show pigs serve as ambassadors, bridging the gap between urban and rural populations, and fostering a greater appreciation for the agricultural sector.
Show season is a culmination of dedication, passion, and hard work within the world of agriculture. The efforts of handlers and their show pigs take center stage, showcasing the beauty and complexity of animal husbandry. Beyond the competition, show season fosters connections, education, and a deeper understanding of the overall agricultural industry.