On Friday afternoon right after school all 21 of use students plus 2 teachers loaded up all of our hogs, gear, clothes, etc into the bus and we headed up to Lansing (which was about an hour and half ride). When we got there, we bedded pens, filled feeders and waited 'till we could unload hogs. There was quite a wait since they could only unload one trailer at a time. At 6:00 there was a showmanship clinic which was very educational. Then I went and washed my hog and changed into my show clothes. I showed probably around 8:30 p.m. I didn't place in my class, but I wasn't very disappointed seeing as how I've worked very little with my hog. We don't have the facilities to work with our hogs in the winter at school. We got to our hotel around 9:00 and finally fell asleep around 2:00ish. Yikes! Still trying to get back on a normal sleeping routine from that. Had some awesome roommates though....had lots of fun. :)
This is me showing in Showmanship. I'm in the orange shirt.
Saturday morning we were woken up to the news that one of our advisers had gone to the hospital in the middle of the night with kidney stones. Since he was our bus driver and our other adviser didn't have her CDL, she had to shuttle us 5 at a time in the ag truck back to the show arena. I was in the first group and we got all of the hogs fed and watered before everyone else arrived. Just as the second group came, we discovered that our QuizBowl team was up first and not all of our teammates were there. We made the quick decision to switch one team member and headed in. We were still all in our chore clothes and rather rattled so we probably didn't give a very good first impression. However, we still managed to pull out of that first heat and had to go in for the second. Sadly, we were beat by a very young boy who was very smart and quick at it. Oh well, we were the only team out of 6 or so from the center that made it into the second heat.
At 12:30 market classes started. They started with futurity classes which my hog was in. They only picked like 3 hogs from each class of 12 or so and mine didn't get chosen. Then my whole family arrived so that kept me busy while I watched a few more classes before mine. I was in class 8 and actually got placed 7th! There were probably 12 hogs in the class and they only place the top 8.
Me in Market Class. Again in orange shirt.
I got penned! Surprising for me 'cause I think my hog was pretty ugly. :P
After I was done with my market classes, my family headed home and I found out that had placed 7th with my essay! I was pretty pumped. That was out of all of the seniors at the show. Then we all watched a few more classes and the last kids showed in class 21. One of those kids had the best hog out of all the ones that we brought and he actually placed first in his class! It was pretty cool.
Preston with the 1st place hog (in the white shirt).
We finally left the show around 6:30. What a weekend! Filled with lots of adventure, excitement, etc as usual. I'm so looking forward to showing my hog at fair and I'm hoping to go to Green and White again next year. My plan is to breed my gilt again once she is ready to breed again and have August babies (which is when you want them for Green and White). Then I want to take Elizabeth (she loves hogs) and go up there and show. Anyway.....my big dreams. :D
I though I'd post my essay if anyone was interested. I knew very little about this topic when I started and found it very interesting. Hope you do as well!
Contract Grower: One Way to Save the Family Farm
What is a contract grower? Why are they used? What are their jobs and responsibilities? How does one become a contract grower and why would this job be appealing? What is in this job that makes worthwhile to grow hogs on a contract? What is more profitable, a "wean-to-finish grower" or a "grow-to-finish grower"? All of these are important questions to ask when looking into the contract business.
First, what exactly is a contract grower? The contract grower concept began in the late 1970's with the founders of the company now known as the Murphy-Brown, LLC. They describe the contract growers as follows:
"[A]Contract grower is a term that refers to a private landowner and independent farmer who has entered into a contractual business arrangement with our company to produce livestock for the company."
The producer will pay the grower for their care of the livestock, usually once they have been sent to market.
A large scale producer must remain big to be competitive in today's hog market. A common slogan is, "Get big or get out". Few producers can keep the facilities to house and care for as many hogs as are needed. For this reason, they contract out hogs to small farmers, which often may be a small floundering family farm that needs something with a steady pay to keep afloat. "Recent National Agricultural Statistics Services data indicates that nearly 40 percent of the U.S. swine inventory is owned by large producers, but is raised by contract growers under a production contract."(Virginia Tech)
So what exactly is a contract grower's jobs and responsibilities? Each farm may vary in their requirements. For example, Heimerl Farms in Ohio ask that you meet with an supervisor from their farm to inspect and approve locations and building plans. Murphy-Brown LLC suggests that the grower will meet "local, state and federal legal, regulatory and permitting requirements", "technical and animal care requirements of their farm", "daily management" and "financing for construction and operation of the farm". (Murphy-Brown LLC, contract)
How then, does one become a contract grower? Again, this may vary from farm to farm. Contacting a local producer is the first step to becoming a contract grower. In most cases your first job will be to do legal work and build facilities to house the livestock.
Growing hogs on a contract is an interesting, exciting way to raise livestock in a large quantity without facing all of the costs. Typically, the producer will provide all livestock, feed, transportation to and from the growers farm, veterinary services, production consultation to make sure that the animals are properly cared for and a stable payment (based on contract terms) to the grower. All of this places little risk in the growers hands and gives him/her the opportunity for a predictable, hands-on job. Perhaps a family is looking for a way to keep the family farm in good working order, or a single person is just looking for a way to keep out of the office. In a time where large organizations are making it more difficult to operate a small family business off of your farm and be financially successful, this may be your way to keep up the family farming traditions.
The next big decision is to decided what type of contract grower to be. Should a small farmer become a "wean-to-finish grower" or a "grow-to-finish" grower? What exactly are the differences and what are pros and cons of each?
A "wean-to-finish grower" is a nursery, grower and finisher barn all in one. While this may be more work for the contract grower, there is reduced stress and therefore, better feed conversion (FC), higher average daily gain (ADG), a lower mortality rate, fewer injuries and reduced sickness. This is quickly becoming a more popular way of raising hogs as the hog production becomes more competitive and many producers may require this type of contract.
A "grow-to-finish grower" is still the most popular way of raising hogs on a contract. While there may be more stress on the hogs (and therefore poorer FC, lower ADG, higher mortality and more injuries and illness), there is much less work for the contract grower. This is more appealing to the grower as (s)he may not be able to commit as much time as is needed in a "wean-to-finish grower".
At a time where pork prices are low, producers are doing their best to continue raising and selling their livestock in the most efficient ways possible. Raising to the occasion and doing the out-of-ordinary may be the most likely way to secure a contract. While more work may be involved, more money can be made. Raising hogs in a "wean-to-finish grower" seems to be the more profitable way of raising hogs as a contract grower.
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Factory Hog Farming: The Big Picture
Murphy Family Farms