A summer pre-fair ritual
Weigh, feed, walk, repeat.
This routine keeps Steele County 4-Hers Lexi and Grady Steckelberg of rural Blooming Prairie occupied as can be from the beginning of spring through the end of summer. The siblings have been showing swine in 4-H for five years now and are eager to see their dedication pay off this year at the fair.
There is a common misconception regarding the amount of time that goes into a livestock project. In order to be successful in the show ring, countless hours are spent diligently working with the animals day after day to ensure that they are in the best possible condition. “The biggest challenge is getting them show-ready, which requires a ton of commitment,” Lexi says. A typical day begins with feeding in the morning and spending time walking each pig. In the evening, the same process is repeated.
Despite their best efforts to work with the animals, it’s been nearly impossible to win with Mother Nature in terms of beating the heat this summer. Ideally, they would be taking each pig outside to walk in the same way desired for the show ring. However, because of the sweltering temperatures recently, they have had to accommodate in order to prevent the pigs from overheating. They must do what they can in the barn, which entails holding a show stick above the nose, causing the pig to lift its head. The idea behind this is to have them hold their heads up while performing to the judge in the show arena.
Besides teaching the pigs how to walk properly, there is another component that is equally as important to the end product. Proper feeding is a challenge in itself. Feed must be weighed every time to ensure that it is the appropriate amount for each animal. When they first get the pigs in the beginning of May, they weigh around 40 pounds. Over the span of a few months, they must put on anywhere from 210-240 pounds. In order to achieve the desired weight and muscling, lots of calculating needs to be done with the feed type and amount. Changes must be made based on how quickly they are gaining weight. The end goal is a proportionate, sound animal with endurance and flexibility —a few of the main judging points.
As grandchildren of a hog farmer who lives right down the road, Lexi and Grady have been around pigs for most of their lives, which justifies their undying passion for the swine project and likewise the excitement they exhibit as show season approaches. They are grateful for all of the knowledge they acquire from grandpa and are appreciative for the opportunity to get their pigs from his farm.
Between the two of them, they plan on bringing 15 pigs to the fair this year. Lexi is shooting for another State Fair trip, as she thrives off the increased competition at the State level. Grady states that seeing the growth of his pigs as a result of his hard work is what keeps him coming back every year to do it again. Because he is not yet eligible for State Fair, he hopes to place either first or second in his class at the SCFF.
The Steckelbergs’ love for the swine project is very evident, as they really enjoy the community education piece of 4-H. Moreover, they’ve learned that with hard work comes desired results, and there’s no doubt that they will achieve just that— not only this year’s fair, but for the remainder of their 4-H careers.