Luke Bohlender gets his barrow pig Jerry ready for the Youth Swine Show Saturday morning at the Campbell County Fair.
4-H teen gets his pigs ready for competition, YLS
Pigs are actually very smart, Luke Bohlender yelled over his shoulder as he chased Tom and Jerry through the maze of gates inside the Cam-Plex Central Pavilion early Saturday morning. The pink and black barrows sniffed the other pigs in the neighboring pens as they made their way into the small dirt arena, where Bohlender’s strategy was to wear them out prior to showing them in the Youth Swine Show at the Campbell County Fair in less than an hour.
“They actually have a lot of energy,” he said, taking a momentary break as he watched the pair kick up clouds of dust as they chased each other around the ring.
Next, he said, they would be getting a bath to get them show-ready.
At 12, this is Bohlender’s fourth year showing pigs in 4-H. Only one of them will make it into the sale Sunday, and at this point, he’s got his money Jerry, who at 244 pounds is the heavy weight of the two.
It’s always a little sad saying goodbye, he noted.
“They’re really sweet animals,” he said with a toothy smile. “And intelligent, too.”
He’s been working with them for the past several months to get them to this point. He started by teaching them how to walk forward by tapping them on the bottom lightly with a brush while using his “pig stick,” a long stick with a feather on the end, to stop or turn around. In total, he thinks he probably spends about three hours a day either feeding or practicing with his pigs.
To win in competition, the pig has to stay between him and the judges without running around wildly, which they naturally do if not trained.
“You don’t want them to get too crazy,” the seasoned 4-H’er explained.
They also have to make weight of at least 220 pounds, which means lots of mealtimes.
“They eat a lot,” he said, with eyes wide.
This year, as in year’s past, Bohlender went with a theme when naming his pigs. It’s fun, he said, tapping them on the bottom as he led them out of the arena to the shower stalls. Around him, other teens washed their pigs or led them into their stalls calling out reminders to each other to close the gates behind them.
In one of these pens, 10-year-old Deagon King leaned over to pat his pig on the bottom. His barrow was nine pounds shy of making weight for the YLS, though he’s ready for competition this morning in his crisp white shirt and black pants, after months of practice and hard work.
“That’s okay,” he said of his pig falling short of weight this year for the YLS on Sunday. “It’s been fun.”
The YLS begins Sunday at 1 p.m. For more information and a schedule, see Campbell County Fair online.