It’s a long drive from Wisconsin to Duncan, Oklahoma. We look forward to our annual trip to the Fall Classic with great anticipation. More than a year’s worth of planning and hard work goes into this show, from the selection of which females to breed, which boars to use, to breeding, farrowing, selecting and feeding the prospects for both the breeding shows and weanling pig sift. Sometimes all the planning and hard work pays off. Often times it doesn’t. That is the nature of this business, and it’s what makes success that much sweeter when it is achieved.
If you’ve never been to the Fall Classic, I would highly recommend attending at least once. Breeders from all over the country converge on the Stephens County Fairgrounds with hogs from 8 weeks to 8 months of age of every breed and cross. From the flea-market atmosphere of the hogs selling in the parking lot, to the selection of the grand-champion overall weanling pig, to the breeding stock show and sale, there is a lot going on! There are literally thousands of hogs on the grounds during this event. Whether you are looking for a great show barrow or gilt or a new breeding piece for your program, you will definitely find something in Duncan! Hogs are sold from $50 to over $100,000 and everything in between.
This year’s event seemed to be dominated by the crossbreds, and many familiar names found success in the show and in the sale. The sale was topped by the crossbred “weanling” male entry from Heimer Hampshires, selling to Genetic Edge for $120,000. Other familiar firms who did very well included Hi Point, Hirschfelds, Winmor Farms, Craft, 4K Farms, Brinning, Platt, Ottenwalter and Steve and Mark Gray. These are all very well-known firms who regularly find success at this and other national events. If you’re around the showpig industry, you recognize these names. It started me thinking, what’s in a name?
Many breeders struggle with the same issue. How do I get noticed? How do I get name recognition? It’s one of the more difficult tasks in a showpig operation. You’ve built a quality sow herd. You’ve done a good job of production. You’ve produced excellent pigs. Now how do you get them in the hands of great feeders and showmen? How do you get someone to trust your program when they don’t know you, don’t know your farm, and don’t know your history?? Building a brand is a difficult thing to do. Businesses in all industries spend lots of money and effort to build that brand recognition and earn the trust of their customer base. It requires at least as much, if not more, effort than all the work you put into producing those pigs. In the showpig world, the fastest way to build a brand is to win shows. Produce the champion at San Antonio and people will come find you to buy your pigs! But as we all know, winning a major show is no easy task. Even if you produce one good enough, how do you get it into the hands of the right family who can get it to the backdrop?
Name recognition applies to more than just your name. It also applies to the genetics you use in your breeding program. I think we all know, it’s much easier to sell pigs sired by a well-known boar in a boar stud than it is to sell pigs sired by a “no-name” boar in your farm or a little-known stud. The pig sired by your boar may be much better than the one next to it sired by the “name boar”, but buyers will have more confidence purchasing one from a name they recognize. In our own farm for example, we can have on online sale with Yorkshire pigs backed by generations of our own breeding program, names that nobody recognizes, that are quite honestly the best pigs on our farm. In that same sale we will put in a couple pigs sired by a popular “name” sire that are also good pigs, but second to the others. Guess which ones will get the bids? If you’ve been in this business, you know this to be true. Building name recognition for your farm or even for your individual boar can be a monumental task.
What can be done? First of all, curb your jealousy and focus on your program. I think its human nature to be envious of those firms that find continued success. Keep one thing in mind. They have earned that success! These firms have been at this business in a very serious, dedicated manner for many, many years! In some instances, it is multi-generational. Their continued success is no accident. It’s the result of years and years of planning, hard work and in most instances at least as many failures as successes. It takes a very disciplined mentality to honestly assess your own hogs, your own breeding program and your own marketing efforts in comparison to those of your peers and admit to yourself when and where you need to make changes and improvements. It’s easy to get stuck in your own way of doing things and remain blind to the methods of others. That’s not to say you should begin chasing fads our lose belief in your own program. Just don’t stubbornly cling to the idea that your hogs are better than everyone else’s and lose sight of areas where they may need improvement.
In our case we came away very pleased with the results of the show for Kuhlow Girls Showpigs. We were particularly proud that two of our “no-name” entries, the result of many generations of our own breeding, placed very well in the show. Our Duroc weanling male entry, sired by Eviction Notice (raised by us) and whose dam and sire of dam were also raised by us, was named the Champion Duroc weanling male. Another entry, our Yorkshire boar 69-1 who represents multiple generations of our own breeding on both sides of his pedigree was the winner of class 3 in the breeding show. While neither of these hogs sold for an astronomical amount of money, we were very happy that they were recognized by the judges for the quality they have and that there were buyers who also saw the value in them. Despite the lack of name recognition for the sire or the breeder, they were excellent hogs that will do well for their new owners. We knew what we had going in, particularly with the Yorkshire boar, and we hoped that someone would see the pieces in him that we saw.
We had an enjoyable time in Duncan! It was great to reunite with old friends, make new ones, and meet several of the Darin’s Pig Pen readers and subscribers! Thank you to everyone who helped make our trip so memorable! We hope to see everyone back again next year. Bring some great hogs, a great work ethic, a great attitude and make everyone remember your name!
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