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Homeschooler Showcase: How to Pick Show Pig Winners

  April 26, 2017

Today’s student showcase features an expository essay by one of our homeschooled high school students, Trenton H, who recently completed the Essay Rock Star full course program. As you can see below, despite his dyslexia, he writes quite well!

The picture is of Trenton himself with his show pigs Apollo and Hermes at a local livestock show where he won Grand Champion in showmanship.

How to Pick Show Pig Winners

by Trenton H.

Did you know that not all pigs are the same? They don’t all spend their days lying around in the mud waiting to become bacon, although most are destined for this unless they're named Wilbur and have an eight legged friend who is good with words. Picking a good show pig is one of the most important parts of a 4H showmanship project. With some research and examination,  carefully choosing a piglet that fits the requirements for the ideal show pig becomes easier. 

When selecting a show pig for a 4H project,  you should first examine the body. Starting with the toes, you should make sure they are even and pointing outward. Next, you can move up to the hams. They should be wide but not so large that the pig appears unbalanced. The hams are found on the back of the pig above the back legs. They are basically the equivalent of the human thigh and butt muscles. After that, look forward to the chest. It should appear solid and evenly balanced. On the back of the piglet there should be a natural split that divides the shoulders and runs downward toward the hams. A natural split will suggest that the pig will continue to open up as he gains muscle in his shoulder, ribs, and hams. You want the shoulders to be balanced with the hams as you look at the pig from the front. You should avoid a piglet that is too narrow in the shoulders. 

The body structure is important when looking at a show pig. The first thing to think about is the way it walks, also known as the gait. The front legs should take wide equal steps while the back legs will step in a circular motion. When looking at the side of a pig,  you should be able to see the formation of natural angles from the shoulders to the front legs and the hams to the back legs. The pig should have a wide belly and should not appear too long in the body. 

There is more to picking a pig than just physical appearance. You should select a good breeder, one who you trust knows their animals well and operates in a clean environment. One of the most important parts of choosing a pig is the breed. You want to work with a breed that you really enjoy showing. Some breeds are naturally more calm then others, but this is not always the case. The health of a pig is another very important thing to remember. When picking a pig, you want to make sure it is eating well and does not appear to be sick. The pig should be the right age and weight for the show you want to take it to. Pigs that are too old tend to get over finished; they grow too much, have become soft in the body and are not ideal for the meat market.   An over finished hog does not have the clean muscular body that judges look for in a market class when determining the hog's readiness for butchering. It is important to be aware of your show date, because you need to calculate weight gain so that you make requirements for your specific show. A big factor in choosing your pig is deciding if you want boy or a girl also known as barrow or gilt. Barrows usually gain faster and fill out nicely although they can get a little thick headed if not worked with regularly. Gilts tend to do better in the market class but run the risk of going into heat which can change their temperament and make them hard to work with in the show ring.  

Hopefully, I have shed a light on different pigs and their many variations.  There are multiple different factors to consider when selecting your project pig. It’s important to consider all of the factors and not just focus on one.  Choosing the ideal show piglet gets easier as you have more experiences with pigs. The better quality and temperament of the pig, the better the outcome in the show ring. 

Categories:   Student Work
Tags:   Essay Rock Stars, expository essay

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