Kentucky Proud show pigs make an impact both in and outside the show ring

grandKentucky’s youth swine showmen have wrapped up a summer of preview shows and expos and are making final preparations for the Kentucky State Fair.

Despite concerns from the PED virus, youth show pig numbers are up according to Lashley Williams, swine show coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Division of Show and Fair Promotion.

Of the Kentucky Junior Livestock Expos, the East Expo in Morehead boasted the largest hog show with 200 pigs. The Western Rivers Expo in Murray hosted 60 hogs and 100 pigs were shown at the Kentucky Junior Livestock Expo in Bowling Green.

Show pig numbers are on the rise statewide and the KDA staff attributes that the Kentucky Proud program.

“No species has benefited more from the Kentucky Proud program than the swine showmen,” said Shawn Zollman, of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Division of Show and Fair Promotion.

According to Zollman, when the Kentucky Proud program began there were only 15 breeders enrolled. In 2014, there are more than 30 breeders selling Kentucky Proud pigs, many of whom are showmen who retain their gilts to raise pigs for sale to other 4-H and FFA youth.

One of the major incentives to show a Kentucky Proud animal is the added premiums and recognition.

In classes, Kentucky Proud hogs are awarded higher premiums than non-Kentucky Proud animals. Kentucky Proud pigs are also eligible for premiums for first-tenth place finishes while non-Kentucky Proud animals are only awarded premiums for first-fifth place.

At Kentucky Junior Livestock Expos, a Kentucky Proud Champion and Reserve Champion are selected and awarded premiums as well. If a showman’s pig is selected as Grand Champion in the market hog show and happens to be Kentucky Proud as well, they receive both the Grand Champion and Kentucky Proud Grand Champion banners and premiums.

Even more valuable than the monetary prizes are the lessons young breeders are learning in marketing, salesmanship, public speaking and working with exhibitors, says Zollman.

“The communications skills, salesmanship, the marketing skills they’re gaining are giving them firsthand experience that is 10 times better than what they could ever be taught,” said Zollman.

Those are lessons that Williams says swine showmen will put to good use at the Kentucky State Fair.

“They are able to talk about the industry to not only the judges but to anyone who asks a question about their project,” said Williams.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of The Kentucky Pork Producer News. Article and photos by Celeste Harned of Celeste Communications.