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April 17, 2014

Showing hogs takes Hart

Dustin Hart takes 2nd place in showmanship

Mayo — The 99th Annual Suwannee County Fair and Youth Livestock Show and Sale was held April 5-12  in Live Oak. Lafayette County had a large presence of youth at the event, one of whom was Dustin Hart, a senior at Lafayette High School, who took second place in Hog Showmanship. The theme for this year’s show and sale was “Homegrown, Handmade, & Farm Fresh”.

Dustin Hart on hog raising

A lot of preparation goes into showing a hog at the youth livestock show long before the event ever takes place. Dustin Hart offered a brief explanation of what it takes to get a hog ready for the show. Hart has been showing hogs since he was eight-years-old and he said the first thing one must have is investment money in order to show a hog at the fair.

“That way you can work on building it up while you raise your hog,” he said.

When he first started as an eight-year-old, he said he built two sets of pens for the hogs and later, when he was 14, he rebuilt those pens.

“Basically, you build your pens, you buy your hog and you feed it every day,” said Hart. “I do mine twice a day. Some people do automatic feeders, which is OK.”

Then one must exercise the hog, “kind of run it around and give it a playpen”, he said, and make sure it starts gaining muscle.

“You kind of watch it like your own body,” he explained. “You make sure it gets the proper nutrition and proper exercise. You’re taking care of your pig like you would a kid. You’re going to feed it, clean it, clean its sheets, which is basically the bedding,” he added with a grin.

He said it’s a lot of work raising a hog, but it’s good because it teaches kids responsibility.

“Most kids, by the age of eight, get really attached to the hog and they really care about it, and then they find out it gets made into sausage...but they get over it,” he said.

Hart said the process of showing a hog is fun, plus you can make money when it comes time to sell it.

Jana Hart

Dustin’s mother, Jana Hart, explained the next part of the process is to bring the hog to the show, get it in the barn, and get ready for the Monday morning weigh-in. At this year’s show, she said, the livestock board and a lot of volunteers weighed in 198 hogs from Lafayette and Suwannee counties, specifically, Lafayette High School, Suwannee High School and Branford High School.

“We had 25 Lafayette 4-H hogs and 52 Lafayette FFA hogs, for a total of 77 hogs from Lafayette County that will be sold Thursday (April 10),” she said.

The Showmanship portion of the process, she explained, takes into account how the child shows the hog and moves it around the ring, not necessarily what the hog looks like.

“That was supposed to be Monday night, but due to the bad weather, we rescheduled that for Tuesday morning,” Hart said. “That lasted Tuesday morning through the early afternoon, then they had the show Tuesday night.”

Lafayette County’s Shelbi McCall took first place in showmanship for the senior division and Dustin Hart placed second. Krista Lyons from Lafayette took first place in the intermediate division and her sister Emily Lyons took second. They are the daughters of Chris and Kelly Lyons.

There were 16 classes of hogs for the hog show this year. The 198 hogs entered in the show were separated into four divisions based on weight, and the winners of the four divisions were semi-finalists for the grand champion. The hogs ranged in weight from 230-290 pounds.

Krista Lyons from Lafayette FFA won Grand Champion, and Reserve Champion was Andrew Meyer from Branford FFA.

“Those two hogs will be selling first on Thursday morning (April 10), along with the Reserve and Grand Steer,” said Hart.

There were a total of 34 steers checked in for the show.

“I would say if you take what Dustin said about his preparation of a hog before the show, you could almost quadruple the effort that goes into raising a steer before the show,” Hart said. “They get them earlier, they pay more for them, they feed them more, they need more care, and they need a lot more one-on-one attention from the child to be able to walk that massive animal into the ring and control it as they walk around.”

Entered into the steer competition were four from Lafayette 4-H and six from Lafayette FFA.

The awards ceremony took place Thursday morning, April 10, followed by the sale of the animals, which began with the Grand Champion hog and steer, followed by the Reserve Champion hog and steer. After that, the rest of the steers were sold, followed by all the hogs in order of class and their rankings in each class.

“When you think about those 198 hogs, there were 198 kids who raised them, took care of them and learned something,” said Hart. “Just appreciate the kids in this county who worked really hard. They are missing some school this week, but the teachers have been exceptionally graceful about it, especially when we had to change the showmanship from Monday night to Tuesday morning.”

Hart said Lafayette County is fortunate to have so many parents and teachers who are supportive of the agricultural events that go on in the community.

“They know it’s making a future generation of responsible and agriculturally smart children,” Hart said.

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