LAMPETER, Pa. — Market hogs aren’t exactly pets, but developing a relationship with their show pigs can help youth exhibitors succeed in the ring.
Jenna Smith, an eighth-grader in the Penn Manor School District, builds a connection with her animals before she starts teaching them to walk with the whip.
“The first few weeks when I get the piglets, I’ll just sit in the pen, and I’ll give them marshmallows or animal crackers as snacks, so then they get used to me and I get used to them, and we build a relationship,” Smith said.
That connection, along with hours of training, leads to pigs that are well behaved in the ring.
“I’ve found overall the more you put in your project, the more you’ll get out of it,” Smith said. “You can’t expect to get champion or first place or whatever if you’re not willing to do all the work.”
Smith showed two reserve champions and won her showmanship class during the Sept. 25 pig show at the West Lampeter Community Fair.
Smith has made some fun memories spending time with her pigs.
Her lightweight reserve champion, a white pig named Marshmallow, often rolled over while being brushed and expected to get brushed some more.
“My pigs tend to get spoiled,” Smith said.
Smith wasn’t planning to bring Marshmallow to the fair because the pig had stopped eating.
She got over that problem by adding animal crackers, water and milk to the pig’s feed.
“You had to crush the animal crackers. That’s how picky we get,” she said.
Smith may wait on her pigs hand and hoof when necessary, but she’s also a stickler for cleanliness.
“I love giving them baths because I hate dirty pigs,” she said.
Though she also shows lambs and gets to know them too, Smith prefers working with swine.
“They just have their own personality, and there’s always a connection between me and my pigs,” she said.
Rebecca Barley, a junior at Penn Manor High School, feels similarly about her porkers.
She selects pigs that have a long, wide and muscular body shape, but are also cute and well behaved.
Barley, who also has small herds of breeding cattle and sheep, gets her pigs to do what she wants by training them well.
She directs them by tapping, not flogging, them with the whip, and she can get a stopped pig to start moving again just by talking to it.
Barley showed the champion lightweight at Lampeter.
Over the summer, Barley has farm chores and a half acre of tobacco to tend, but she still spends several hours a week working with her animals.
This year’s pigs, Hershey and Revere, liked wallowing and rolling in the mud, but they occasionally took things too far.
During one of its walks, Hershey went for a swim of sorts in a muddy pond on the farm. Barley and her mother had to retrieve Hershey from the high point in the muck where the pig had parked itself.
“She was just sitting on there like, ‘I have my own island,’” Barley said.
Needless to say, Hershey got a good bath after that adventure.
Like Smith, Barley goes the extra mile to take care of her animals.
She’s housed bottle-baby lambs in her parents’ basement, and once even kept a sick lamb in her bedroom. “My dad wasn’t too pleased about that,” she said.
Fortunately, her bedroom floor is linoleum, not carpet, but the animals are no longer allowed in the house.
“I just love spending time with my animals,” she said.
Barley’s relationship with her market animals inevitably ends at the fair’s livestock sale, a parting that has gotten easier over time.
After she walked her first steer onto the truck, Barley sang Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” to herself.
The song, which describes a person’s nighttime rambles longing for a departed lover, was particularly apt because her all-black steer was named Midnight.
While most of her livestock sale proceeds will go to expenses and savings, Barley plans to donate the earnings from one of her sheep to hospice. The gift will be in memory of her grandfather, who died this past year.
Following are the results from the Lampeter pig show.
Champion lightweight: Rebecca Barley
Reserve champion lightweight: Jenna Smith
Champion mediumweight: Regan Herr
Reserve champion mediumweight: Berklee Perry
Champion light heavyweight: TJ Frey
Reserve champion light heavyweight: Elianna Landis
Champion heavyweight: Alysse Owens
Reserve champion heavyweight: Jenna Smith
Grand champion market hog: Regan Herr
Reserve grand champion market hog: Rebecca Barley
Showmanship class 1 winner: Renee Eshbach
Showmanship class 2 winner: Logan Martin
Showmanship class 3 winner: Jenna Smith
Showmanship class 4 winner: Brandon McMichael
Showmanship class 5 winner: Zac Anderson
Showmanship class 6 winner: Sierra Mull