We did it this year. Like so many show families before us. It took a lot of patience, a few mistakes, some laughter, and maybe a couple tears. We wouldn’t have made it through without some great help from old friends and new. Did we switch houses? No. We switched species and learned a lot of lessons along the way.
1. When a 4 year old declares to her daddy she wants to show a species you didn’t while growing up, you will show the new species.
Growing up my husband and I showed cattle. And while I made a small switch when we got engaged (He showed Shorthorns. I showed Angus. Ok, maybe this wasn’t a small switch for me but that’s another blog for another day.), I wasn’t sure what to expect when my husband and daughter declared they wanted to show pigs. You see, my daughter has wanted to show since she was old enough to walk. And since she is 4 and weighs 40 pounds soaking wet, cattle are out of the question for now. So after a few days of watching “the piggie show” at state fair last year, she declared she was ready to show. And our long learning process began.
2. Use the connections you have.
While at the show, my husband ventured through the barn talking to other cattle friends who had made the switch and some friends who had been showing pigs all their life. We figured out the basics that we would need, what breeds we wanted to look into, and that no, we are not ready to tackle the breeding side of things. Fast forward to April and we were on our way to pick up two barrows from one of my husband’s junior college buddies. We had decided on a Spot and a Berkshire so we could avoid the crossbred chaos until we had at least a year under our belt. And we had been told Berks were really good eating. Seeing a 4 year old girl’s face light up when she sees her two new best friends for the first time made all the time spent researching worth it. Our two new barn buddies were quickly dubbed Babe (obvious choice) and Phillip (as in Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty). And then the real fun began.
3. You can take the cow people out of the show cow barn, but you can’t take their hair working habits away.
Like we have done with breaking cattle, the way we “tamed down” our pigs at first was with a brush. And realizing Babe would flop over like a dog for a good belly rub when brushed in just the right spot was a constant delight for our little showman. Throughout the late spring and early summer, we slowly built up our exercise program and daily hair and skin program, which more than likely involved a lot more brushing of the hair and products than most pigs, but hey, old habits die hard.
4. Beating your mom in class is an instant confidence booster.
We headed to our first show in mid-July, a neighboring county fair. With having purebred classes for the first time, the show included all black breeds in one class. So in stepped Mom to show Babe. When all the pen gates were closed, the 4 year old was in the first pen and Mom was in the third pen. We were all thrilled to have won our first blue ribbon, but the youngest showman (and her dad) were more than thrilled to inform everyone she beat Mom in class.
5.Proud parent moments will come without purple or even blue ribbons.
We came full circle in August with a trip to the state fair and while we didn’t bring home another blue ribbon, we did bring home a white one, which was pretty ok by us. The 4 year old approved after she realized she got the same color ribbon as her new friend. She also made the proclamation that she was going to work harder next year so she could win a blue ribbon.
6. Show pig families and show cattle families aren’t really that different.
Show pig families are just as helpful when trying to find the nearest hydrant and closest corn dog, just as friendly when you are the lone parent trying to weigh your animal, just as understanding when a 4 year old isn’t quite ready to tackle the show ring by herself, and just as welcoming when they see a new family in the show barn as we found in the cattle barn.
7.Pig show mornings are a lot more enjoyable.
Showing pigs does not require you to be at the show more than about an hour before the show starts. A major bonus in my books. I could get used to not washing and blowing out while it’s still dark outside. Coming from a species that requires lots of show day prep and a lot of work at the shows period, my husband hasn’t quite made this adjustment. We’ll work on it for year number two.
8.Buy a Berkshire pig. You’ll thank me with your first bite of pork chop.
Written by Chelsea Duis for Ranch House Designs