NC Purebred Swine Family Reunion

On August 22, the North Carolina Purebred Swine Family Reunion took place where I was able to catch a glimpse of decades of work that not only made North Carolina’s hog industry better, but forged lifetime friendships, created lasting memories, and instilled a great sense of pride and accomplishment in those involved.

DSC_0074The Family Reunion is a time for those involved in the purebred industry to come together and reminisce. Many of those in attendance were a part of the North Carolina Swine Evaluation Station that operated from 1973-1994, and was headed up by Dr. Bob Jones. It was here that performance testing was conducted that has had a lasting impact on today’s hog industry.

Dr. Bob Jones
Dr. Bob Jones

Many stories were told about the “good old days” at the evaluation station–stories of record breaking boars, stories of camaraderie, and stories filled with good humor. The pride of those who had played a part in the station was evident as they spoke. Over 7,000 boars were evaluated during the 21 years with a percentage of those boars selling for a revenue of over $1.8 million. 120 breeders participated in the program during its lifespan.

The afternoon also consisted of a moment of silence for those who had passed away since the last reunion and a catered meal. North Carolina Pork Council CEO, Deborah Johnson, and NCSU Animal Science Department Head, Dr. Todd See, spoke on the industry and recent trips to China that gave insight into international pork production. Dr. Bob Jones, former NCSU Extension animal husbandry specialist also spoke about the research station and all of his fond memories. Ron Hughes, former NC Swine Evaluation Station manager wrapped up the reunion.

Ron Hughes
Ron Hughes

It was a wonderful afternoon filled with heritage, friendships, and of course, pigs!

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A Peachy Pig Trip to Georgia

While everyone was watching Katy Perry’s many wardrobe changes and cheering on their team during Super Bowl, I was on my way back from Perry, Georgia. Our Super Bowl food of choice was Taco Bell, which is not easy to eat in a truck. Somehow I managed to not spill (shocking I know)! Anyway, yesterday was the end to several days in Georgia showing pigs at the National Junior Swine Association (NJSA) Eastern Regional show. I hitched a ride (leaving NC at 4am) with my boyfriend Garrett and his folks to the show, and compared to last year, it was a lot warmer and a lot less white–aka not snowing.

NJSA shows deal with four purebred breeds of pigs–Duroc, Landrace, Hampshire, and Landrace. There is also crossbreds, but to show a crossbred, you have to show a purebred. I went to my first NJSA show last year in Georgia and really enjoyed it. Because there are a lot of shows all year round, people get to know each other and it becomes quite the community with pizza parties, games for kids, and of course piggies. The show consists of showmanship classes, skillathon, and both barrow and gilt classes divided in breeds. In the open show (for all ages), there is also boar classes. All in all, there are about450 contestants and 700pigs, if I could guess. You can see why it lasts from Wednesday to Sunday. effectOne of the cool things about dating someone with similar interests as you, is you enjoy doing those things together. Garrett and I met showing pigs and doing livestock events. We talk about pigs and livestock more than most things. Even though we share a passion, that doesn’t stop us from being competitive with each other. We still compare who has more ribbons, but we also help each other out too. This show, he beat me in skillathon with a 7th place and me 8th, but I beat him in sweepstakes with a 10th. He brought home the coolest prize though–a new pig. This show consists of a sale in addition to the show. After selling all our Yorkshire pigs we brought and showed, Garrett (well, his dad) bought a cool Duroc gilt. After much debate, she was named Hazel, and is now the lone red pig in a bar filled with white ones back home.

hazel

I’ve decided that instead of giving you all the many details of our time in Georgia like spilling my drink at Steak ‘N Shake or getting pig pee on my pants, I’ll give you a bunch of pictures of our peachy pig time in Georgia.

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skillathon

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me and judge

 

Bringing Home the Bacon

The highly anticipated show pigs are officially here!! I get extra excited about getting pigs, because, well they may be my favorite. Shhhh… don’t tell the others. I hate to play favorites, so I’ll just say I like them A LOT! They are, however, my favorite animal to photograph. They have such personality and are always doing something goofy. Check out this girl:

pig tongue

I told you they are hams (pun intended), but before I show you more of the photo shoot I had with the little porkers, I wanted to share with you the behind the scenes of bringing home the bacon.

A house that won’t blow down

When we first started showing pigs, we kept them in a dirt lot with a shelter. While this may sound like the perfect habitat for pigs, it really wasn’t. They rooted up the entire pen, creating craters that were begging for a twisted ankle. The pigs would get sunburnt from laying around, and it was a huge mess. So now, our pigs are kept on a concrete floor under a shelter. They have a bedding box, heat lamps for the cold, and a fan for the heat. Unfortunately, concrete floors mean we have to clean the poop everyday, but it is loads better than what we had before.

Before we could bring the pigs home, we had to clean and scrub the pen (sheep had been occupying it for a few months). We laid down fresh bedding and even built a new “wall”. By wall, I mean we put up a fabulous tarp to break the wind during the winter.

I’m pretty sure our toes and hands were frozen by the end of it, but it looked great. We had a house that wouldn’t blow down or be blown into.

What makes the bacon?

Of course, pigs don’t grow off of air. They have to have pig food. We get ours from a local mill that blends a special mixture of corn, vitamins, minerals, soybean meal, and more together to make a delicious meal. Alec ran to the feed store to pick up the sustenance for the pigs.

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This little piggy went wee, wee all the way home…

Today was the day to pick up the pigs. Ahhhh!! I had already picked out the two pigs we were getting at a previous farm visit (if I don’t pick them out ahead of time, I have been known to take over an hour to pick one out). See Farms is about an hour from our house, and we have been getting pigs from them for about two years. We have typically had great success with them including two champion titles and a first place at NC State Fair. It helps that they are nice folks and live close by. All three of my brothers and I piled in the truck with trailer in tow to head to Raleigh, NC.

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Once there, the Sees showed us the pigs as well as the new litter of pigs they had. They were gracious enough to let me snap a bunch of photos of all the pigs. I was able to capture some good ones like these:

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baby piggiesLoading the pigs up into the trailer went pretty smoothly. One of the pigs was super loud, grunting the whole time, but she didn’t give any problems.

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After loading them, I told Isaac that the money to pay for them was in the front seat of the truck. He ran to go get it and returned, handing the money to me. I told him, “Oh no. That isn’t for me. Give it to the Sees.” You know, teaching them young about business transactions (really, I think it just teaches them the sting of dropping a chunk of money).

The boys decided to name their two gilts (girl pig) Halo and Miss Bacon. When we arrived home, we unloaded them and ran them through the scales to determine their weight. In case you are curious they were 145 and 110 pounds.

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We then let them into the pen, to which they explored contentedly. I commenced partaking in another photo shoot.

Bringing home the bacon is a little more than just picking up pigs. It includes tarps, frozen fingers, feed runs, photo shoots, and some money. It is all most definitely worth it! A big thanks to See Farms for these beautiful girls!

see farms