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4-H Swine Show continues a seven-decade tradition

February 21, 2006|by JEFF SEMLER

In what year were Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and designer Yves St. Laurent born? When did the Hoover Dam open? When did the Spanish Civil War begin? The year was 1936.

That same year, the United States won the gold medal in Olympic hockey and Jesse Owens won four gold medals, spoiling Adolf Hitler's hosting of both the Winter and Summer Games. The Statue of Liberty turned 50 and Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his second of four terms as president.

Closer to home, a group of 4-H and FFA leaders got together and started what I believe is the longest-running youth Swine Show in the eastern U.S. This past weekend, we held the 70th edition of this show. A lot has changed since the first show.

The pigs certainly look different. In 1936, a prize hog was much heavier and fatter. Why? Families were larger and larger portions were needed and almost everyone fried with lard (pork fat). Vegetable oil was not the staple it is today. Additionally, a great majority of county property owners raised hogs for both sale and their own kitchen table.

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Today, Washington County is the state's leading hog producer but there are fewer than 20 full-time swine producers. However, on Saturday, 17 4-H swine producers exhibited their prize hogs.

What is a Swine Show, you might ask? A show is composed of two parts. The first is showmanship, where the youth are judged on their ability to show or display their hog. The youngsters are divided into age groups. Justin Martin from Smithsburg won the Junior Division (8- to 10-year-olds). In the Intermediate Division (11- to 13-year-olds), Boonsboro's Scott DeBaugh took top honors and Clear Spring High School senior Jamie Beckley captured the Senior Division (14- to 18-year-olds) and the overall title.

Next, the hogs are divided into weight classes and are judged against each other and a standard. A prize hog should be well balanced with excellent muscle expression and adequate fat for flavor. The ideal weight for a market hog is between 225 and 280 pounds.

The youth paraded their pigs before judge Curtis Bryant, a former 4-Her from Baltimore County who learned his trade in 4-H and at Oklahoma State University. He sorted through the 52 pigs and selected Scott DeBaugh's 232-pound pig for Grand Champion honors. Williamsport's own Garrett Hamby exhibited the Reserve Champion, weighing in at 272 pounds.

While the show lasted a little over two hours, the work that went into these 4-H projects began months ago. Some of the exhibitors raise their own pigs from birth while others buy feeder pigs. Feeder pigs are young weanlings that weigh between 50 and 100 pounds. All the 4-Hers feed and care for their pigs for four to six months before showing them.

This means getting up and going to the barn before going to school and going back to the barn after school. While these projects certainly teach swine management skills, more importantly they teach life skills like responsibility and decision making.

At the conclusion of the show, the youth sell their pigs to the highest bidder. This is an exciting event. Jim and Barb Starliper of Four States Livestock Sales have played host to this entire event for many years and Jim's dad Jack hosted it before that. Auctioneer Floyd Davis volunteers his time to call the sale and the public strongly supports it.

The gentlemen from Wilson Ruritan once again purchased the Grand Champion. These folks have purchased the Grand Champion for more than 10 years. Then they donate the hog back and it is resold with the proceeds going to support the 4-H Swine Club. Myron Martin from Martin's Elevator purchased the resale pig and helped the Swine Club add to their coffers.

Martin's Elevator was also the volume buyer on the day, taking home nine pigs. Other multiple buyers were William Gower & Son Feeds, Hoffman's Quality Meats, Robbie Stenger, Robbie Kershner and T & R Tire Service. Creekstone Landscaping, Matthew Pine, Tim Hill, Hagerstown Speedway, Ron Blickenstaff, Wayne Gaver, River City Farm & Pet Supply and Coast to Coast Transportation were also buyers.

Rounding out the buyers list was a special group of buyers who are either former 4-Hers, 4-H leaders or both - Beckley Farms, Joe Frey, Sam Winters, DeBaugh Farms, Kritter Lane Farm, Palmyra Farm, Stacy Crawford, Jason Hose, Tropical Acres, Steve Martin, Mike & Lisa Drake, Beckley & Hann Trucking, Antietam Auctions and Bill & Mary Poffenberger. You might say they bleed 4-H green.

While the day might have been cold, inside Four States Livestock Sales nearly 100 folks enjoyed fun and fellowship for a good cause, building up youth. We are already planning the 71st edition in February 2007; I hope we will see you there.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at jsemler@umd.edu

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