What makes a champion hog? Is it the breed, the feed, the workout routine? The porker’s personality, or the show ring skills? How do youth benefit from raising animals? Winners shared some of their secrets to success at the swine, sheep and goat competition last Friday morning at the Phelps County Fair.

What makes a champion hog? Is it the breed, the feed, the workout routine? The porker’s personality, or the show ring skills?  How do youth benefit from raising animals? Winners shared some of their secrets to success at the swine, sheep and goat competition last Friday morning at the Phelps County Fair.

Hannah Strain says a key to success is the amount of time spent with the animals.
“I go out in the morning for an hour to feed, water, and work with them, and again in the evening for an hour,” she explained. “I also check them during the day.”
Must haves in hog raising are good feed and exercise, not to mention love and affection. Her hog Otis took second place in the market division. “Otis’s breed is called a Spot,” she says. 

You don’t just get a hog to cooperate in the ring without months of practice and a few treats.

“He loves marshmallows and apples,” she confides.   Hannah is president of both her FFA and the 4H Elk Prairie Chapter and is entering her senior year at Rolla High School; after graduation, she hopes to attend Mizzou and major in agriculture/advocacy.  She also shows market lambs and cattle.

Braelyn Wagner took first place in her division. That could be considered impressive for an eight-year-old. She says that having an automatic feeder makes a big difference in raising pigs. She feeds the pigs, and sprays their pen with water. Mom Ashley Potts says, “Braelyn is passionate about what she does and that the experience has helped her mature.”
“It’s her time to shine. She isn’t nervous in the ring, but more so about what comes afterwards (the transition from pet to bacon).”  Preparing for the show ring involves grooming the animals and the handler needs to look sharp too; new boots and a sequined belt add sparkle.  Pig’s name? “Lady Gaga,” Braelyn laughs.

Animal husbandry is a family affair for Little Piney 4H member Wyatt Waneka, age 10.  He and brother Justin, age 12, raise hogs, helped by 16-month-old sister Addie.  In 2015, Wyatt took home the fair’s grand champion hog award. Wyatt says keys to success in raising hogs are to join 4H and to take good care of your animals.  His mom Stephanie says the experience teaches children the value of hard work and dedication. She purchases the first animal and feed; after that, the kids are on their own.

“We set up a bank account for all expenses,” she said. “When an animal sells at the fair’s auction, those funds are deposited into an account which funds the next batch of animals, teaching the kids basic economics.” When they graduate from high school, “all leftover funds go into their college account,” Stephanie said. She adds that the support shown by the community purchasing the kid’s animals are what makes it possible for youth to raise animals. “It’s expensive,” she concludes.

Tom Strain and wife Cindy are Hannah’s parents. Tom taught agriculture locally for over 30 years and feels the lessons involved in raising animals are invaluable. “Kids learn leadership and it grounds them.  They learn cause and effect; what you get out of it is based on what you put into it.”  They may not all go into agriculture, he says, but the lessons learned apply to any endeavor they choose.  Judging from the well-cared for animals and camaraderie, or hamaraderie, observed Friday at the Fair, the lessons are being learned and lived.