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Fair Week

Posted by Afton Blight on August 21, 2013 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

The 2013 Calhoun County fair week has ended. All projects have been awarded ribbons and livestock have been judged. Two days before the pigs were due to arrive at the fair, one of Kaleb's choice pigs collided with a penmate while running around the yard during their exercise time. Pigs often get silly like this and it's funny to watch, but this time the gilt (female pig) injured her leg during this rambunctious act and could not be taken to the fair because she walked with a limp. As a result, Kaleb only showed one animal at this years fair.


To start off the week Kelsie and Kaleb's feed records were reviewed and given blue ribbons! They spent the next couple days ensuring their pigs where comfortable and happy. On Tuesday the first class to be judged was Homegrown. Only 4-H members who have a part in raising their pigs from breeding the sows (mother pigs) to the finished 4-H project are entered in this class which focuses on the structure and muscularity of the animal. Kelsie's pig did well in this class but did not receive a spot in the top three. 


Directly following the Homegrown class is Showmanship which is a class where each youth demonstrates how they have worked and trained their pig by walking it back and forth in front of the judge. It really does sound simple when I write it down but in reality, it is no simple task. Kaleb was placed 6th in his intermediate showmanship class. Kelsie's pig did not co-operate and just stood in the corner and screamed which sounds a little funny, but is very frustrating for the club member who has worked hard walking and training the pigs for months only for it to desire it's pen over the show ring.

                           


The Market Hog competition was held on Wednesday. During this class, each animal is judged according to their ease of mobility, muscularity, and leanness. Kaleb's pig did not place in this class but Kelsie received 1st place pen in her division which means the judge liked how her pigs looked in regards to their market qualities, and how they matched as a pair. All the pigs were sold on Friday at the large animal livestock auction. Both Kaleb and Kelsie were pleased with the overall outcome of this year's fair and although it is sad to sell their 4-H projects, they know that next year will be just as much fun!


This concludes the 2013 4-H Swine Club blogumentary. Thank you for following along and don't forget to visit the Calhoun County Fair next year to see the Weitzel's 4-H projects!

Feed Records

Posted by Afton Blight on August 3, 2013 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

All year Kelsie and Kaleb have been keeping track of the expenses and feed costs associated with their 4-H swine projects. Each Swine Club member is required to fill out a packet of information about their fair project known as feed records. By recording all feed fed and costs it is easy to calculate some important numbers and ratios like average daily gain, the amount of feed fed per pound of gain, total project expense, and estimated break-even price among others. The 4-H'ers also answer questions about challenges they encountered this year, lessons learned, and how they financed their project.

Each feed record is presented to a judge the Saturday before fair and is graded on presentation, content, and accuracy. For many young people, completing feed records is the worst part of the entire project, but after doing it for a number of years, it really isn't that bad. It just takes a while to understand how all the calculations work and what they represent.

This is the last week of preparation before the pigs are taken to fair. To find out more about the livestock show times or other events at the Calhoun County Fair, visit www.calhouncountyfair.org



Three Weeks to Go!

Posted by Afton Blight on July 21, 2013 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (0)

There are three weeks until the Calhoun County Fair begins. Each pig must weigh between 220-280 pounds to be shown and sold at the fair and when the Weitzels weighed them last week, most of the pigs tipped the scale around 250 pounds. As a result, the pigs are now on a restricted diet. It is difficult to predict how the pigs will handle the summer heat and daily exercise sessions but this group of pigs has not decreased their feed consumption and have kept gaining weight.


Kelsie and Kaleb are starting to look for the best pair of pigs for each of them to take to the fair. Ideally a great pair of pigs are the same color, weight, and body length/size but it is acceptable to compromise on the color aspect. If the pair of pigs vary in the other two characteristics too much they will not place well as a "pen" but the 4-H'er still has a chance of achieveing a high placing with their individual pig and in the showmanship class.


In the photos, Kaleb and Kelsie are walking their pigs as they do everyday, twice a day. After each walk the pigs enjoy a quick spray down from the garden hose before returning to their pens to relax.


                              

Drivers Training for Pigs

Posted by Afton Blight on July 7, 2013 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

So how do you control a pig around the show ring? You can't, really. All you can do is train it leading up to fair and hope it cooperates when you enter the show arena. As Kaleb demonstrates in the video, the pig is tapped on the right side to make it go to the left and then tapped on the left side to make it turn to the right.



For the next two months, this is what every swine club member is training their pigs to do. It seems simple but it takes time and patience. The time spent in the show ring could be ten minutes or thirty minutes so the pig's stamina must be built up to avoid fatigue and irritation as it is directed around the ring for that unkown amount of time.

Family Exercise Session

Posted by Afton Blight on July 1, 2013 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Kelsie and Kaleb have been getting their pigs acquainted to being steered around a small arena in the barn and decided they were ready to venture outside for some real exercise. All seven pigs, Stan, Kaleb, Kelsie, their younger brother and sister, and two dogs all went for a walk down the lane. This will become a routine that the pigs enjoy everyday and as fair week approaches the pigs will be walked in both the morning and in the evening.


The pigs aren't usually so dirty but when the weather gets really hot (like it was here) it's hard to keep them cool and clean.



The goal is to keep the pigs on the lane and out of the soybeans but as you can tell from the photos, it can be a challenge.



Showmanship Training

Posted by Afton Blight on June 23, 2013 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (0)

This month's Swine Club meeting focused on showmanship skills. During the fair, each swine club participant gets two opportunities to show their animal. On the first day of showing, the judge is evaluating the young person and how they work with their pig, this is called Showmanship. The next day, the each animal is judged by their physical characteristics and perceived meat quality and cutability.


Each showman is encouraged to work with their pigs in the months prior to fair in order to familiarize the pigs with the showing process. The 4-H'ers are required to look professional in a button-down, tucked-in shirt and pants when entering the show ring. Once the youth and their pigs enter the show arena they try to parade their pigs in front of the judge. The Judge places the participants on their ability to keep their pig at a good viewing distance while walking the pig in a way that allows the judge to see all sides of the animal for evaluation purposes. Having good eye contact with the judge is key and the older 4-H members are often asked questions about the pig producing industry or pork quality and need to have a satisfactory answer in order to place well in the showmanship class.


Being top showman takes a lot of work and dedication but it ultimately comes down to impressing the judge in a few minutes time. The winners of the showmanship classes in all the livestock clubs then have the opportunity to show each specie at the fair during the Show of Champions which is Thursday of fair week.

Let the Fun Begin

Posted by Afton Blight on June 4, 2013 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Now that Kelsie has officially graduated from high school and Kaleb is finishing his classes soon, the real fun begins. These 4-H'ers will now begin to train their pigs how to walk while being guided in the direction the kids want them to go. It doesn't sound that complicated, but trying to get an animal that is not harnessed to walk a specific route is no small task. Kaleb and Kelsie use a small fenced in arena to first familiarize their pigs with the direction guiding process but they also take them for walks around the yard and back the grass lane for real exercise and muscle building.

More to come on how exactly you get a pig to turn right and left, stay tuned.

Month #1

Posted by Afton Blight on May 20, 2013 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (1)

The pigs are now at home and enjoying the nice spring weather. Each of the six pigs under Kaleb and Kelsie's care has a name, they include: Big Mama, Oreo, Marshmallow Puff, Masked Bandit 1, Masked Bandit 2, and No Name. The pigs have fresh water at all times and all-they-can-eat feed plus a few graham crackers for a treat, which they love (especially Big Mama)!


Once a month all the Swine Club members meet to discuss how to care for their animals, what to look for in a quality show pig, and how to prepare for the competition. May's meeting was focused around Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) certification. Each Swine Club 4-H'er is required to be PQA Plus certified in order to show a pig in the Calhoun County Fair. The PQA program was first developed in 1989 as a pork producer education session with the goal of reducing the risk of animal health product residues in the meat. The program became a success by measurably reducing the violative residues in pork and is continually updated and taught to pig farmers throughout the United States.


Due to the increasing concern not only for the quality and safety of food but also for the well-being of the animal, the PQA Plus program evolved. This is the current program that is being taught. It includes material on animal health product safety, on-farm animal well-being, and proper animal handling among other things. Many meat packing plants require pork suppliers to obtain the PQA Plus certification before their animals can enter the food chain. Kelsie and Kaleb along with the rest of us at Blight Farms are all certified!



Take Your Pick

Posted by Afton Blight on April 23, 2013 at 8:10 AM Comments comments (0)


Every year Blight Farms raises a few pigs specifically for 4-H members. These pigs are minimally different from those in our normal herd but we ensure they are born in February (so they will be the appropriate size for the fair), and the 4-H pigs tend to have a more defined muscle structure. In the photos, Kelsie and Kaleb are selecting what they believe are the best looking pigs for this years project. They may each enter two pigs in the show but will purchase six pigs total. After they are selected, the chosen pigs move to the Weitzel residence where they receive much love and attention.

The pigs weigh about 60 lbs. and are 2.5 months old.



4-H = Life Skills

Posted by Afton Blight on April 17, 2013 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

4-H is the nation's largest youth development organization. It aims to provide youth with challenges and "learn by doing" opportunities which promote responsibility, skill expansion, leadership, and self discovery. 4-H members are mentored and advised by adults but urged to take charge of their own projects and advance them from one year to the next.


Participants in the 4-H livestock clubs are given the opportunity to manage all aspects of their animals. Each student in the Swine Club keeps track of their animal's feed ration, health, exercise regimen, and financial information. Each year's project provides different challenges and results in an educational experience no matter how many years you've been in the club. When fair week roles around in mid August each member hopes they achieve top honors and get rewarded for their hard work and time spent preparing their projects all summer long.


Lets wish the Weitzels good luck on a positive start to this year's projects!


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