Exhibiting swine may sound like a strange pastime to some, but for others it is their passion. Swine exhibitors work day and night to present their animal at the highest level possible. Preparing swine for competitions — from brushing them down to filling (feeding) them up — takes patience and persistence.
“Waking up early in the morning to walk pigs … feeding them twice a day and washing them daily takes a lot of time,” said Tyler Jenkins, nine-year swine exhibitor at the Missouri State Fair. “It’s a big commitment.”
Exhibitors spend months in preparation, putting in countless hours working with their pigs all for ten minutes of fame in the show ring.
In spite of the large amount of work, exhibiting swine has upsides that not everyone may see.
“It (the swine industry) teaches my kids respect for their animals,” said Michael Jennings, swine industry professional. “It has taught them the value of the dollar. They are in charge of selecting and purchasing their pig.”
In my own experience, the swine industry’s strength comes from the community around it. Over the course of the Youth Jackpot Circuit, friends turn into family.
“It’s nice to know you can trust tour kids with other parents,” Jennings said.
The Missouri Youth Swine Jackpot Circuit is a series of 16 shows over seven weeks in the summer. Jackpot shows are held annually in various Missouri towns including Chillicothe, Mexico, Auxvasse, Troy and Nevada.
“The best part about showing pigs is watching your work pay off, and of course everyone wants to win,” Jenkins said. “Everyone is competing for the same thing in the end.”
In addition to the jackpot circuit, youth in 4-H and FFA across the state are eligible to compete at the Missouri State Fair held in Sedalia. Hundreds of youth come to compete to earn a spot in the Sale of Champions, a sale held for the champion and reserve-champion for each species at the fair. In 2016, the Sale of Champions raised a record $157,350 passing the previous record set in 2008 by over $4,000. The champion swine barrow, exhibited by Cooper Sutter of Tayler, Missouri, brought a record $31,000.
“Showing pigs gives you a competitive edge to want to become better in everything you do,” Jenkins said.
The swine showing industry offers many opportunities to youth around the country, helping them develop a strong work ethic and leadership skills.