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Will this little piggy go to market?
by Christina Rowland
Mar 21, 2013 | 1561 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Christina Rowland photo
George West junior Matthew Peck sits with his pig Betty in her pen on Monday morning. Monday afternoon Betty and his other pig Shelly were given baths and had their hair trime to prepare them for the fair weig-n on Thursday.
Christina Rowland photo George West junior Matthew Peck sits with his pig Betty in her pen on Monday morning. Monday afternoon Betty and his other pig Shelly were given baths and had their hair trime to prepare them for the fair weig-n on Thursday.
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Six months of hard work will culminate into the thoughts of one judge at the swine show portion of the Live Oak County Fair on March 23.

Until that day George West junior Matthew Peck will continue to work with his two pigs, Betty and Shelly, to make sure they are the best looking pigs they can be.

That don’t mean just looking good; the two pigs have to weigh a certain amount too. Just to be accepted into the show the pigs must each weigh between 225 and 280 pounds.

But getting a pig to that point doesn’t come easy.

Peck, who has been raising pigs since he was a freshman, said both his pigs are cross breeds of Hampshire and Yorkshire. He got the pigs back in November and has been working with them almost daily since then.

The months before the fair his life revolves around the pigs.

Peck and his family live in Dinero, while his pigs live at the animal barn at school, so planning is a priority when it comes to their care.

Peck makes time both before and after school to check on the animals.

The pigs have to be fed, walked and washed daily.

“The most difficult part is cleaning out the water,” Peck said.

The pigs tend to make a mess around the water bowl and often there are large puddles of mud that have to be braved to get to the water bowl.

Additionally Peck has to wash the pigs when it is hot.

“They don’t have sweat glands and they have to be cooled down,” he said.

And when it is cold outside he has to make sure and put extra shavings in their sleeping house so that the animals stay warm.

Walking them is another important component that Peck does daily. Using the pig stick on the side of their head gets them used to keeping the head up. The animals need to be used to walking in general, so on the day of the show the pigs will not be running around like crazy.

He explained that teaching the pig to hold her head up when she walks makes the body of the animal look better to the judges.

Walking and bathing the pigs is not enough; there is also feeding the animals that seems more about science than a chore.

The pigs are fed their normal food but powdered fat has to be mixed in to ensure that the animals weigh enough to make the 225-pound weight requirement; but if the pigs get to close to the 280 cutoff weight, then food will be rationed and water intake greatly reduced.

Once the pig is weighed in a couple days before the show, it is smooth sailing for the animal. She can eat and drink whatever she wants because her weight has already been recorded and she has been segregated into one of the eight classes.

Peck said one of the pigs is the right weight and will make it into the show while the other pig is still a little light and needs to gain some more weight before the official weigh-in.

Peck said a lot of weight will be taken off or added just by controlling the water intake of the pigs. He said they like to drink lots of water.

Once the pigs actually make it in to the show they will still have to compete against more than 100 other pigs for the coveted title of grand champion and reserve champion swine.

Getting the pigs into the show is important because then Peck will have the ability the sell of one the animals and recoup the money he invested in them.

Peck’s mom said the purchase and care of the two pigs runs about $1,800 a year. His family paid for the pigs his first year and since then he has used his earnings from the sale to buy his pigs and supplies needed to participate the next year.

When you ask Peck about the process and pig care now, he says it is tiring and is ready for it to end, but he might change his tune by the time the fair gets close next year.

Peck is not the only George West student to raise animals. Many others raise not just pigs, but also heifers, steers, rabbits, chickens, goats and lambs.
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