Our boy had wanted to show a pig in 4-H ever since he was six years old. Jayten talked about pigs all the time. His first oral presentation contest talk was on the cuts of pork when he was a Cloverbud (not old enough to compete, but could do projects for display).
He loved helping his friend with his pigs at the fair. In fact, the joke was whenever we needed him, he could be found in the swine barn. We’ve had two sets of feeder pigs so he could be around them and see if this “passion” was for real.
I always knew in my heart we should get him a pig to show, but honestly in my head, I was thinking how can we manage three different species?! His older sisters already showed beef and sheep. I kept teasing that adding a pig to the mix at fair might just do me in. We’d be in three different barns. And, we didn’t know anything about show pigs either!
He could just show a steer with biggest sis, Mackenzie. We went back and forth about it, and even had some steers picked out for him. None of them were quite as calm as we wanted them to be as weigh-ins rolled around, and we didn’t weigh in anything for him. When it came down to it, I knew his heart wasn’t in it. And really, as his mom, I knew the answer to the question we’d been asking ourselves too.
He needed a pig.
At first, I was still quite nervous about what we were getting ourselves into, but in reality, this turned out to be the best decision we could have made for him. I had told Josh that we got Emma (our second daughter) into showing sheep because she was too timid around the steers. She needed a different project from Mackenzie. We made the best decision based on what was right for her. We needed to do the same for our son.
And he agreed, reluctantly. ;0) Look what I’ve done to my cattleman—he’s into the sheep and pig business now—ha! I don’t think he’ll ever love my horse though. LOL.
All joking aside, looking back, this pig—Nate the Great—was exactly what our whole family needed.
I took J to visit the newborn pigs soon after they were born. The breeder we were going to buy from had several litters. It was still a few months away from making our selection, but how could we not go visit the cute piglets?! Seeing the smile on Jayten’s face when holding a piglet melted my heart. A couple months later we visited again and picked up his project.
I admit, I was still wondering what I’d gotten myself into agreeing to take charge of this new adventure, but seeing how happy my boy was made it worth it. I probably asked a million questions, texted all my friends who have kids who show pigs, and spent a lot of time learning online. From the very beginning, we weren’t afraid to ask for help. And thank goodness for all those who were willing to offer advice and support. I’m sure this year we’ll still feel like newbies—one successful year does not make us experts. ;0)
One thing I didn’t really expect was how much we would fall in love with Nate. He’d roll over and you could scratch his belly. Pigs are really smart and J started training him early to walk around outside his pen. I had told him from the beginning if he was going to have a swine project, he had to keep his pen clean and he had to train the pig to show (we were not going to have the stereotypical smelly and crazy pig running around.) And he did. He worked every day to make sure his pig was calm and learned to drive (strut his stuff for the judge in the show ring). J cleaned his pen morning and night, and made sure Nate had lots of love…and food!
He learned to give him a bath, which was quite comical if you can imagine, especially when the pig would get the hose in his mouth and toss it around. Eventually, J could walk Nate in the yard without him trying to root around and pretty much walk him wherever he wanted him to go. The pig learned to load into the trailer too. It was quite the process, and one we will start earlier in training next time around. We used a ramp, tried marshmallows and food. It was a slow process. The secret we discovered—apple slices. At the fair, the culmination of all his hard work, J was so proud to share about his pig with anyone who asked.
Nate was given so much love and care. Our kids know that we raise livestock for food. It’s an important job and responsibility—to care for food animals—and can’t be taken lightly. That’s the thing about livestock projects; when you spend that much time and care, you can’t help, but love them too.
His summer of hard work paid off in the show ring, and the two brought home Novice Showmanship honors at the county fair. Nate was second in his market class too and received a blue ribbon.
More importantly, this first show pig taught us all we can learn new things. We can go outside our comfort zones. Nate helped us create even more family memories. We learned and we loved, and Nate will always hold a special place in our hearts. I am so thankful we listened to our hearts and realized our son needed to show a pig in 4-H.