My 14-year old son David is a member of the Future Farmers of America chapter at our school, and recently showed two pigs at the local and county livestock shows.
Livestock shows are a part of rural middle America and part of our British heritage. It`s an Anglosphere thing. Livestock exhibition owes much to the British Agricultural Revolution of the 1600s to 1800s, which emphasized scientific livestock breeding and not mass labor.
For these shows I purchased two pigs for David, both gilts (young females). One was a crossbred pig and the other was a registered Berkshire, a venerable old British breed from Berkshire county. The U.S. Berkshire association was the world’s first swine breed registry, and its first registered pig was “Ace of Spades”, a hog who had been imported stateside from Queen Victoria’s herd. (For more on the Berkshire breed, click here and here).
This year, the local livestock show was held just three days before the county show. As part of the show, the pigs are weighed. The crossbred gilt was heavy enough, but we discovered that David’s Berkshire gilt weighed 187 pounds. That was ok for the local show, but not heavy enough for the county show, which required 200 pounds. So we put her on a crash weight-gain program, feeding her as much as possible! On county show day she weighed in at 205 pounds, a gain of 18 pounds. Congratulations!
David`s pigs didn`t go on to win grand champion or anything like that, but when that gilt gained more than enough weight to qualify for the show, I felt like it was a victory.
David showed his pigs, we had a good experience at the shows, David enjoyed it and had his livestock-showing experience. As for the pigs, they have moved on. The Berkshire was sold as breeding stock and the crossbred pig was purchased for pork.
If you`ve never attended a livestock exhibition, you ought to drop in on one sometime, just to check it out. It`s another form of competion with its own rules, characteristics, idiosyncracies, lingo and subculture. It`s worth seeing.