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Tradition of swine auction continues

February 17, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN -- Jim Starliper was 6 years old when he first took part in the annual Spring Swine Show.

A member of the 4-H Club, Starliper remembers his father taking him to Four States Livestock Auction on First Street in Hagerstown to show and sell hogs to the highest bidder.

Now, 50 years later, Starliper owns Four States, and he said it is only natural that he continues to host the event.

"As long as I can remember, this place has been available for the spring show," Starliper said.

Starliper has carried on the show's tradition by donating the auction house for the event.

He said it is an important show for young farmers to participate in.

"It teaches them responsibility and understanding of the real-life aspect of this," Starliper said. "You grow an animal for food and have to sell it, hopefully to make a profit."

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The show is co-sponsored by the 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America, and has been held for almost 80 years, according to 4-H Swine Club leader Karen Martin.

Preparation for this year's event began in December, with hogs that weighed between 60 and 90 pounds, Martin said.

Owners spent the winter feeding their hogs to get them up to market weight, and also spent time training them to make sure they could be paraded in the show circle, Martin said.

This year's grand champion, owned by Garrett Hamby, was auctioned Saturday for $3 per pound to Wilson Ruritan. Members of the club promptly gave the hog back to Hamby to be auctioned again.

"It's not really about the hog as much as promoting young people to raise animals," Martin said.

She said buyers typically pay more than market price at the auction.

This year's show featured 48 hogs, ranging in weight from 210 to 278 pounds.

Starliper said the quality of the hogs has gotten better over the years.

The biggest change is that the average weight of hogs in the show has come down as buyers' tastes have changed, he said.

Starliper said hogs no longer are raised with as much fat as they used to have because buyers want a leaner product.

"It's interesting to look at a hog from 40 years ago compared to one today," he said. "They used to be big blobs. Now, they're lean, mean machines."

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