I spent some extra time in and around the swine barn this past month during the World Pork Expo. With name tag tucked securely under my shirt, I wandered through the pens taking specific note of our young people and their interactions with the pigs. A handful of young exhibitors were napping in the pen while using their resting pig for a pillow. Obviously these few spent a lot of time with their projects. In the afternoon on Wednesday I noted a lot of parents napping as well. The long travel time, several from California, take its toll on all, however it was my experience that the pigs handled travel better than humans.

Something relatively new to me was the “make-up area” used to assemble the next class into the show ring. I am very proud of the large number of exhibitors I saw who brought their pigs to this area by themselves. And I was excited to see how diligently they brushed and groomed their pigs, getting ready for their moment in front of the judge. An overall absence of adults in this area was also noted. Good for them!! I am sure some true stockmen will emerge from these experiences, boys and girls alike.

I witnessed a very precious moment in the area from the “make-up area” to the show ring. A very small boy (this grandpa would guess him to be about 6 years old), was dressed nicely, with his exhibitor number pinned to his back and carrying a whip he had trouble wielding due to its length. Problem was he was crying. Mom came in and knelt down to question and soon Dad joined the huddle. I read Dad’s lips: “Its’ just like at home in the back yard.” So I knew the little guy was having stage fright!

After all, this is THE NATIONAL SHOW and the crowd was heavy and the sawdust thick and to this little guy, it was NOTHING like the back yard. At one point his pig, which appeared to be a Hampshire, stuck his head into the huddle as well. I read his lips too: “I am ready, are we going to do this?” I watched for awhile longer and regrettably, I don’t think they made it into the show ring for that class. In hunting, we call that Buck Fever when a youngster can’t pull the trigger. Hopefully a few smaller venues will allow this little guy to gain confidence and by next year we will see him take the “Big Stage.”

I will be watching for more young stockmen next June. I have a much better opinion of our young swine showmen in regard to stockmanship abilities learned through this type of program.


The opinions expressed are those of the author.