This is the moment of a lifetime! The judge is taking his final glances at the showmen and their hogs before selecting the Grand Champion Senior Swine Showman.
Your heart is about to beat out of your chest, and you stop breathing for a few seconds before it happens. The judge puts his mic down and shakes your hand. You have done it! You earned that buckle and premium! You immediately start preparing to relive this exact moment the next year.
This is what I live for. County fair season and the thrill of a handshake or slap.
I have loved livestock from a very young age. It all started with my mother, at the time a kindergarten teacher, who hatched baby chicks in her classroom. I would love being in her classroom in the spring. Her teachers’ meetings gave me plenty of time to develop a strong love for the birds. Fast forward to high school. I now keep four to five show pigs in the barn, along with a fat steer, breeding heifer, and prospect calves in preparation for the fair. Along with a KAJILLION chickens of all breeds and sizes who roam the yard all summer which are a huge part of my FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience. (That’s a LONG story for a later time.) Owning animals gives you a whole different type of joy, let alone reaching the goals you set with them.
My goal with this blog post is to give a brief run-down of the preparation I do to get ready for the fair and show my thanks for the ones who help me along the way.
County fair preparation starts the day you buy your pig. I’m going to keep this step short and sweet. Buy the best pig you possibly can while still staying within your project budget. Easy. I have been blessed enough, over the past nine years I’ve been showing, to buy show pigs from two very skilled-in-their-craft breeders who are extremely willing to help every step of the way.
We then move to the months ahead of feeding and training. Any questions you have about feeding, always feel comfortable asking the people you buy your projects from. They will almost always have the best suggestions to get that final look you want out of your project.
The training process is what I personally think is the most important part. I treat my pigs with the occasional marshmallow or white off-brand Oreos from the dollar store. (These are simply my cheapest option.) Always feed these treats to your pigs where they have to reach for it with their head up. While walking your pigs, put a cookie or marshmallow on the end of your whip and slowly walk with it dangling in front of your animal. This makes it easier as you teach them how to walk, that they are able to keep their head raised. Working with them each day aids in the process and can sometimes speed up the training process. Teaching your animals to perform the way judges prefer is not the only thing that is going to affect your outcome though. The bond you create after months of training together is insane. By the time you walk into the ring, you should be able to treat that animal like your sibling (that you actually like.)
I am extremely grateful that my parents and the local 4-H program gave me the opportunity to start owning and showing livestock at such a young age. Over the years, these projects have taught me an unlimited amount of responsibility, affection, and love for the process. The endless number of hours in the livestock barns at the county fair has provided me with relationships that will last a lifetime.
When your time comes and the judge shakes your hand, don’t just thank HIM. Thank your animal, your parents, your breeders, and your mentors. They are the ones that got you there.
Morayah Cupp is the fifth generation on here family farm where they run a cow/calf operation and produce specialty pumpkins, gourds, and squash. She is an active member of her FFA Chapter and president of her 4-H club. Morayah enjoys raising and showing livestock and mentoring other members of her FFA chapter and 4-H club.