Pratt County 4-Hers and FFA members bring big pig numbers to the 2021 fair
The swine show continued to be a big draw this year with 99 hogs entered and shown at the Pratt County Fair. While Bergner Farms, specifically Sam Bergner and his Hereford pigs, were responsible for 33 of those entries, new families joining and a local school group supported by FFA grants helped keep the numbers high in the 4-H, FFA and open class swine show held Thursday, July 22.
As Junior Oinkers and Little Squealers swarmed the arena chasing down their pigs during the show last week, Judge Karl Riffel gave high fives as he exchanged information with showmanship participants.
"The future is very bright for Pratt County swine projects," Riffel said. "These kids are all having a good time out here and most are very knowledgable about their pigs."
For Kambry Moreland, McKenna Moreland, Cali Newdigger and Kodi Davidson, swine knowledge was something new they had been working on all year, thanks to FFA grants they applied for in January. Four of the three Skyline High School students had never had the opportunity to raise and show livestock before in their lives, the fourth, Newdigger, had never raised hogs before, and though she did not actually take part in the grant-support process, it was her idea that the others apply for and carry out pig projects that took them to the Pratt County Fair this year.
"We were working on our Supervised Agriculture Experience project goals last fall when I found a grant for new projects," Newdigger said. "We all talked about it and decided to go for it with pigs because, well, they are cute."
Kambry Moreland said that they decided they were going to raise pigs one way or another, even if they didn't get the grants they applied for, but were happy to each receive $1,000 from the state and national FFA organizations for their projects.
They made visits to Bergner Famers, where they learned about budget planning and goal setting from long-time Pratt County 4-Her Lindsey Bergner, who was home on spring break from Kansas State University. They also took a farm tour to see the Bergner family's Hereford pigs, study how their pens were set up, and looked at other management details. The group also met with Pratt County Farm Service Agency representative Brandon Riffey, who helped them set up financial plans for their project applications.
Speaker phone calls with another quality swine breeder in Nebraska, Trent Loos, sparked the girls' interest in the Berkshire breed of pigs, one not commonly found in Pratt County, after which they made a spring-break trip to Loup City, Neb. to see the pigs in person.
"We decided to purchase five Berkshire's from Trent Loos and five Hereford crossbreds from Bergner Farms," Newdigger said. "We liked that they were different from the usual pig breeds that we studied, like the Durocs, Hampshire and Chesters."
From that point on, the four girls worked hard every day, going from building pens to daily watering and feeding chores for their projects.
"It was not easy. It was a lot of work," said Davidson. "We spent an hour and a half to two hours every day taking care of our pigs."
Unexpected high gas prices made driving to the central location where they kept their pigs (at the home of FFA/Ag advisor Anita DeWeese) a cost they had not figured on. The summer weather was a problem as well, when it got very hot, the pigs went off feed and they had to find ways to cool them down. There was also an injury or two to contend with, but by the time they got to the fair, the girls all agreed the project was worth doing, they learned a lot, and they definitely wanted to do it again next year.
McKenna Moreland said her favorite part of the project was learning to know her pigs by their personalities.
"My Berkshire was so sassy, loved that, but the Hereford was much easier to work with," she said.
Moreland said her main goal was to bond with her pigs, which she named Beef and Dudley, and that was accomplished.
"I'm sad to sell them after the fair," she said. "But it has been a great experience, I want to do it again next year."
Kambry Moreland said her goal was mainly just to be able to raise her pigs and get them to the fair without anyone dying, and she did that. Her pigs were named Claussen (like the pickles), Arby and Poncho.
Davidson, who named her pigs Felix, Techno and Crispy Chicken Tender, said that she really enjoyed the fair and it was fun and easy to move her pigs around the show ring. That might have been because of all the time she spend walking her pigs, with her mom who came out to help her sometimes.
Newdigger said her dad, who had always wanted to have pigs since he had some growing up, seemed to enjoy her pig project almost as much as she did this year.
"It brought back a lot of good memories for him, and we had a good time making a lot of new memories," she said.
Newdigger moved her pigs, Queen Elizabeth and El Papi, from their advisor's home to her own farm near Macksville part-way through the summer because she couldn't afford the gas driving back and forth. But there was another blessing to having her pigs on her own yard.
"I got my wisdom teeth pulled and was too sick to go do anything and usually I am very busy," she said. "All I wanted to do was go sit with my pigs in their puddle, so I did. It was nice and cool and they were good company."
Newdigger said that by sharing their stories of their pig projects, the Skyline FFA students hoped to encourage other kids to get involved with agriculture and try something new.
"The fair is a lot of fun," she said. "You get to hang out with your animals and your friends. I'm so excited to have had the opportunity to do this and can't wait to do it again next year."