Whether you are just starting to get into showing pigs or you are an experienced competitor who is looking for an edge, focusing on the fundamentals of raising and showing pigs is the first place to start. Once you are successfully achieving the basics, you can begin to make small adjustments to maximize your outcomes and improve your pigs’ rankings.
In today’s blog from Cowan Animal Nutrition, we’ll take a look at some tips for executing well on the fundamentals of raising and showing a competition pig, considering everything from what to look for in a young pig to what they should be fed to produce the greatest volume of muscle mass for show.
Read on to learn more, or visit us online to learn more about our swine feed and beef feed or to place your order today.
The single most important aspect of successfully showing a pig is understanding the rules, classes, and parameters of the competitions where you are looking to show your pig. A thorough reading of competition rules and standards, no matter how many shows you have entered, will ensure that you are fully prepared to select and grow your pig the right way.
Some of the most important things to consider when selecting a pig for show include:
- AGE – The age of your pig at the time of the show is crucial given that most shows impose a weight limit between 200 and 250 pounds. Planning for your pig to be roughly 6 months old (depending on the other factors below) is usually considered the sweet spot.
- BREED – Know which breeds are allowed to show together at the competition you are planning on entering, and double-check the rules for crossbred entries. This can be a crucial consideration when selecting your pig.
- PRICE – Deciding how much to spend on raising a show pig (including the cost of penning, feeding, and cleaning) ultimately depends on what the prize money and sale possibilities at the show look like.
- PARENTAGE – Your show pigs’ genetics determine muscle mass, frame size, and growth rate. Make sure that you are able to inspect or review information about your pigs’ parents.
- BODY VOLUME – By measuring the rough volume of your pigs’ body (body height X body length X body width), you can gain a rough idea of the potential growth and size of your show pig. This is one of the single most important factors to consider when selecting your pig.
- FRAME STRUCTURE – While each competitor places an individual emphasis on different aspects of the frame, you can generally place quite a bit of stock in sturdy feet and leg, as well as a relatively level topline.
- MUSCULATURE – Typically, there are two primary factors to consider when looking for show-worthy musculature. Look for the prominence of the forearm, as well as a hearty ham.
- RATIO OF MUSCLE TO FAT – 1.25 inches of fat on a 250-pound pig is considered to be pretty good. To determine how lean your pig is, take a profile look and consider the cleanliness of the lines on the crotch, underline, and shoulders.
- POTENTIAL FAULTS – When selecting your young pig to grow for show, be on the lookout for stubby bodies, dips behind the shoulders, a stiff-gait, or hind legs that are too straight or too bent. As your pig grows and gains weight with high-quality swine feed, these problems are likely to worsen.
Penning Your Pig
When it comes to providing a healthy living environment for your show pig, space and comfort count for more than almost anything else. A well-drained pen of roughly 600 square feet is large enough for two pigs (the dimensions ideally will be weighted towards a rectangular shape), but providing more length, if possible, will help your pig remain lean and active.
Providing a covered shed for shelter is a must. Make sure to create your opening facing away from predominant winds and build on a wooden floor to prevent rooting and to allow for easier cleaning.
When first moving your new pig into its pen, make sure to reduce stress and parasites — such as lice and roundworms — with proven treatment practices, antibiotics, and follow-up check-ups.
Feeding Your Pig Correctly
When it comes to feeding your pig for competition shows, few know better than Cowan Animal Nutrition. Our custom blends of swine feed for show pigs are specifically designed to help you maximize the growth, muscle gain, and energy conversion for your pigs.
Using a grower, or base formula, for the first 70 to 80 pounds of weight is usually a strong way to start. After that, a grower feed or custom “finisher” swine feed is typically used. Most champions will share that they work hard to allow their pigs to self-feed for as long as possible while maintaining an eye on weight gain up to about two months prior to the show.
At this point, most competitors move to hand feeding to ensure that their investment doesn’t blow by the competition’s weight limits. Hand feeding may need to take place two or three times per day, and as a general rule, you can expect every four pounds of swine feed to convert into roughly one-pound of weight gain for your show pig.
While many discover that mastering the control of their show pigs’ weight gain takes time, getting mostly dialed in and achieving close to optimal results is not as hard as it seems. These small differences, however, can often be the difference between a champion and an honorable mention.
A different aspect of showing a pig that many people struggle with is training their pig to present well at the show. To have any hope of a successful showing, your pig must be able to
- Move forward through guided taps on the side.
- Execute a left-hand turn through gentle pressure on the side of the head
- Execute a right-hand turn through gentle pressure on the side of the head.
Pigs are incredibly smart animals and will respond to positive reinforcement such as feeding, scratching, and petting. Some people even claim that verbal praise can be effective. However, you train your pig, remember a few key tips:
- Maintain a healthy emotional distance from your pig. It is not a pet.
- Train your pig through trust, not through fear and intimidation.
- Work to generate the desired actions from your pig in both individual and communal settings to help prepare them for the ring at the show.
Preparing For Show
In addition to the things listed above, make sure that your pig is completely ready for show by providing a dry, draft-free sleeping space, grooming, and high-quality swine feed throughout its growth.
Begin brushing your show pig daily about one month prior to the show to help train the hair. Additionally, two to three baths in the weeks preceding the show not only help to keep your pig clean for presentation but also allow you to monitor and treat any skin conditions or parasites that might hurt your pigs’ rankings.
Finally, it’s time to show. Remember, the most important thing you can do at a show is to make sure your pig is clearly visible to the judges at all times. Work to keep your pig out of the mass of pigs that tend to want to huddle in the ring. You should also try to avoid the edges and corners of the ring.
Be careful not to put yourself between the pig and the judge either, as an obstructed line of sight will not benefit you at all.
Get Elite-Quality Swine Feed For Your Show Pig From Cowan Animal Nutrition
While we can’t help with much more than tips when it comes to showing your pig, we can help you make sure to get the weight gain and muscle development you’re looking for with our high-quality swine feed for show pigs. Shop online today.