Bureaucratic Red Tape. How strict is your show?

This week we are re-posting another blog from a few years back. If you've had similar issues at your show, feel free to share in the comments section at the bottom! 



Recently at our county fair I heard a story about a family who had to leave half of their pigs at home because of a simple omission on their entry form. The family had 6 pigs to show between 3 kids, but because they forgot to write the word “swine” on one of their entry forms, those that were listed on that form were not entered and therefore were not allowed to show. The omission was noticed several weeks prior to the fair, but because it was a few days after the entry deadline, they were not allowed to correct their entry so all of their kids could participate in the show with all of their pigs.


Now I may have simplified the story or not understood all of the details exactly as they happened, but I have the basic understanding of what happened. In the end, a simple omission was made and kids were denied full participation because of it.


I have heard similar stories from other families over the past few years as well. Another common issue at our county fair is showmanship. When kids sign up for the show in the spring, they need to enter their pigs and if they want to participate in showmanship they also must make an entry for the showmanship class. Nearly every year there will be kids that remember to sign up their pigs, but forget to sign up for showmanship. Then they get to the fair, get dressed up, clean up their pigs, and are ready for showmanship only to see that they are not listed in the showmanship class. When they ask the superintendent why they are not listed, they are sent to the secretary’s office where they are shown a copy of their exact entry form to prove that they forgot to sign up and therefore will not be allowed to participate.


Now maybe I am kind of old-fashioned, but this doesn’t sit well with me. In a world that is full of many temptations for kids to get on the wrong path, we sit in a great position with kids involved in livestock projects. Here we have kids that are working hard at something positive rather than getting into trouble. We should be encouraging these kids as much as possible. If they want to participate in showmanship, let them sign up at the fair and participate! Don’t tell a kid who wants to do something productive that he cannot simply because he forgot to sign up months in advance.


My kids are among those that sometimes bump into problems with some of the rules and red tape of the modern hog shows. Their pig project is a family project. It is a team effort for all of them. They truly go to the county and state fairs as a team. There just isn’t any competition between them. It makes no difference to them whatsoever which kid shows which pig. They raise them together, they own them together, the bills and checks get split evenly and they truly encourage and support each other. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they handle their project. I remember the jealousy and bickering within our family as a child over choosing animals for the shows. I see kids at the shows today crying or reacting in anger when their siblings win when they should be hugging and giving high-fives. I encouraged my children from the first day to work together and share the wins and losses as a team. It makes the win that much more special when they can share it with their sisters and the loss that much more tolerable when they can console and support each other. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, this is how our family does hog shows and I am proud of my girls for it.


However it is this mentality that sometimes creates red-tape nightmares for them. I’ll give one example. For our state fair, barrows need to be identified in April. Families are allowed to identify multiple barrows and put all the kids’ names on each pig, rather than have to assign a specific pig to a specific kid. Then when actual sign-up takes place in June, each kid simply has to enter the number of barrows they are going to exhibit (1 or 2) but still not identify specifically which barrow from those that were identified they will bring. When the fair arrives, it is time to decide which of the barrows goes with which kid. This system works very well for our family. My kids get to the fair with their pigs, put them in pens, and when the fair officials come around to check tags the girls just write down the first two for one of them, the second two for another, and the last two for the other. To my kids it is just a name on a piece of paper. They will each go in the ring with two of the pigs, but it makes no difference to them which ones.


The problem arises when they get to the “bred and owned” class. Only the purebreds can enter this class, and they have 2 of the 6 pigs that are purebreds. The bred and owned pigs had to be signed up under someone’s name on the entry forms back in June, and since the girls had no idea (and didn’t care) which one of them would show the purebred pigs at that time they simply signed the bred and owned pigs up under one of their names and never gave it another thought. However when they got to the state fair and they randomly selected the pigs for each of them, they didn’t consider or even remember which of them was supposed to have the purebreds in their name for the bred and owned. Of course, they didn’t get it right and when their pigs didn’t show up on the bred and owned class list, they had to go find out why. It was explained to them that the bred and owned pigs were signed up under one of them that ended up identifying two of the crossbreds as her pigs at the fair while the purebreds were entered under one of them that didn’t submit a bred and owned entry. My daughters tried to explain that it is all the same family and that they just randomly put names with the pigs at the fair not knowing which kid had the bred and owned entries in their name, but to no avail. They were told they would not be permitted to participate in the bred and owned class.


These are just a couple of examples of something that I see as a big problem with modern livestock shows. I recall superintendents at our county and state shows from years ago like Byron Meech and Rudy Van Fleet. These were men that followed the rules of their shows, but always kept in mind the real purpose of the event. It isn’t about attracting spectators and generating revenue for the fair. It isn’t about the livestock. It isn’t about the fair officials. IT IS ABOUT THE YOUTH PARTICIPANTS. Whether it was the superintendents or the fair board or just the system in general, we used to put the kids first. Yes rules were important to maintain order, make the show fair and just, and to prevent immoral and unethical practices, but rules were not used as an excuse to deny kids the opportunity to participate. Things like clerical errors or honest mistakes on a form used to be reparable. Officials were allowed to use honest judgment and most would bend over backward to help a kid fix a problem. What do we do now? We send the kid to the secretary’s office to have their entry form shoved in their face to point out their omission and tell them they cannot participate!     


We live in a world now that puts a lot of hoops in front of the kids to jump through before they can participate in the show. I can recall as a kid calling Byron a week before the fair and signing up a late entry for the state fair open show. Entry was made, we showed up at the fair with the pig and the health paper and showed the pig without incident. Those days are gone! Now we need PQA certification, premise ID, COOL forms, treatment records, electronic tags, DNA samples, urine tests, early identification and my favorite…..the participant behavioral form. Every form must be filled out perfectly. Make a small error and you risk being denied participation.


I understand the purpose of each of these requirements, I really do. I make my living in the commercial pork-production industry so I understand food-safety and accountability. However, given all the obstacles we put in front of these kids in the name of food safety and accountability, shouldn’t our fair officials at least be allowed to use their honest judgment when it comes to simple, honest mix-ups, omissions and clerical errors? What do we want our children to learn from this project? The importance of properly filling out forms? The consequences of one silly mistake or omission? Or do we want them to learn that rules are important, are in place for very good reasons, but that simple mistakes and omissions can also be dealt with by reasonable, honest fair officials who understand that the real value of the livestock project is in the multitude of positive experiences gained by the youth participants?


I prefer the latter. I prefer that my kids do their best to comply with every rule, every form, dot every “i” and cross every “t”, but that in the end if a problem arises, it can be resolved honestly with compassion and understanding. I prefer that there are officials in the system who have the authority to use some honest judgment and common sense in handling issues that arise and not just point to a rule in a book and throw up their hands.


Today's Questions:

Larry from Bryan, Ohio,

Feeding five gilts about 4 to 5 months of age. My intention is to use all of them for sows so what feed would you recommend me to be using for them to develop correctly? Where I am located I have access to all the main feeds; Moormans, Sunglo, Purina, etc. They are currently on Moormans 16%. Thank you.

Hi Larry,

Thank you for your question. Regarding which brand of feed to use for replacement females, you can choose whichever brand you feel the most comfortable with. Each of the companies you list are reputable feed suppliers with nutritionists on staff to ensure the diets are formulated correctly. The more important consideration is to be sure you feed a gilt developer diet. The readily available bagged feeds from all of those companies will either be show feeds or commercial grower diets. To get a gilt-developer you'll probably need to talk to your feed supplier. The primary difference between a grower and gilt-developer is the level of calcium and phosphorous in the diet (and perhaps the ratio of calcium to phosphorous as well). Probably lower lysine and higher fiber levels also. Those companies may already offer a gilt-developer diet. You may have to ask your feed supplier to get it in stock for you. Feed the developer from now until you breed them, then switch to a gestation feed. Good luck! 

Cassandra from US,

If given matrix for 14 days and we are at day 10 or more after and they still are not in standing heat, should I wait longer or when should I do another 14 day dose?

Hi Cassandra,

Thank you for your question. A couple of things about Matrix use. The first, make sure they are cycling before you begin to feed it. You can heat check daily to observe standing heat. You can also administer pg600 to try to induce heat prior to feeding Matrix. Remember that Matrix stops their cycle and discontinuing Matrix allows it to restart. If they weren’t cycling to begin with, feeding and then discontinuing Matrix won’t make it start. You could try giving a pg600 shot a day after discontinuing Matrix to help restart the cycle. If you haven’t seen a cycle in 10 days, I would give pg600 now and wait 5-6 days to see if they cycle.

If they already cycled before feeding Matrix and you still haven’t seen them in heat 10 days after discontinuing Matrix, the remedy is the same; a shot of pg600. One other point about feeding Matrix is to make sure feed intake remains constant or slightly increases during the time they are receiving Matrix. Don’t reduce daily feed from the amount they were receiving. I also would recommend bumping feed up an extra .5 – 1lb. per day as soon as Matrix is discontinued. These little details can help them cycle on time as well.

To your question of whether to start them on another round of Matrix, I would sure like to see them cycle first, but if they don’t and you want to give it another try, go ahead and feed another 14-16 days, then follow with the pg600 shot after discontinuing to see if you can get them going. Good luck!

- Darin

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