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Advanced Swine Showmanship Techniques

Written by: Kim Brock - Oklahoma State University

Article reprinted from www.showpigs.com

Kim Brock is a nationally renowned swine judge who has been working with youth in the swine show rings for over 15 years. Kim's experience in swine judging has been all over the country with him reviewing hogs at national breeding stock and major market hog shows nationwide.

While enjoying judging numerous times per year, Kim's primary occupation is to manage and oversee the nutrition research and "teaching" swine herd at Oklahoma State University. Over his 20 years with Oklahoma State, he has helped to develop their swine management program to a place of national prominence. His students repeatedly place high at National Livestock Judging Contests, and he has developed OSU's swine herd into one of the top purebred herds in the U.S.

First and foremost, let me say just how much I enjoy working with the youth swine showman across the country. It is my firm belief that enormous values and responsibility can be learned from swine projects. Because of the lessons that a junior swine showman learns throughout their project, it is my hope that the leadership involved with junior swine shows can continue to increase the emphasis placed on showmanship. Always having a separate day for showmanship is a great starting point that all national and regional shows should strive to attain.

Now, let's start on our key points for Advanced Swine Showmanship. My goal with this article is move into a few more of the intricacies of showing hogs at major junior shows. The senior classes at major state fairs or the National Junior Spectacular are some of the toughest and most exciting showmanship competitions that you could ever want to see. Let's discuss what separates the kids that make it into the top placings at this high level of competition.

Let's assume that you understand and are competent in the basics of swine showing. Clean, well-groomed hogs that don't run in the ring are basics that we start from. So, where do we go from this basic level? How do we impress the judge?

Above all else, success in Senior Showmanship classes starts and ends with one phrase:

Complete Confident Control!

Successful seniors enter the show ring at a slow easy pace with a plan in mind. They DO NOT just follow their hog around the ring, but rather are continually driving their hog to the "openings" in the ring. They seem to always have their pig away from the group of pigs, off the fence, and out of the corners. While this may sound simple, it is much more difficult than it sounds. The showman must know and understand their hog well enough to anticipate their every move. They DO NOT fight their hog to get him off the rail after he's already running it. Rather, the truly successful showman anticipates when his hog will head for the fence, and is able to head him off, get him turned, and back to the middle of the ring. It is this level of control that you must attain for success at major showmanship contests.

Senior showman must have a confident look and a very skillful approach in the show ring. They must use their whip/cane as an aid, but not overuse the whip on the pig. There is no problem whatsoever, in my show ring, for a showman to use their hand in the face of their pig to help to turn them. A showman that uses his or her hand to turn their pig shows a high level of experience with hogs and a true understanding of how to handle and show swine.

At all times in the ring, a successful showman understands that they are participating in a competition and, as a result, they must have complete concentration on the judge. Whether you're waiting for all the pigs to enter the ring or waiting in the pens, your complete focus needs to be on your pig and the judge. Many times, young people try to be noticed with unnecessary movement of their cane/whip or a distracting, unnatural walk. The idea is for your pig to be noticed, not you. YOU are not the focus. Showing your pig to its best advantage is the single goal in a showmanship class.

Finally, the final placings in advanced showmanship classes can be determined by your responses to the judge's questions. It is often times the case in senior showmanship that there are a whole handful of kids that have done a good job of driving their hog. At this point, a judge is waiting to be impressed by one of the showman, and how you answer your questions can be the way that you really impress your judge. For me personally, my expectations for advanced showman are considerably higher than those for younger showman. So, be sure that you have thought in advance about your answers to some common questions about the swine industry. Here are some questions that I have used before in Senior Showmanship Classes, and you would not believe how many times these questions have made the difference in my placings!

Are pigs monogastrics or ruminants?

What does NSR stand for?

What does LEA mean and what size LEA does your pig have?

What is the most important view of a market hog?

What is an EPD?

How does the future look for the seedstock producer?

Picture in your mind the average market hog today. How could the average market hog today be made better?

Explain pork quality.

What might you tell another young person considering having a 4-H or FFA livestock project?

Why is it important that a pig be sound on its feet and legs?

These comments are just a few of my ideas for the advanced showman, but if you can follow these guidelines, you will surely have an improved chance in your next competition. There is just one last thing to keep in mind, HAVE FUN! Showing livestock is a serious competition, but when it's all said and done, showing livestock is meant to be a fun, learning experience. Prepare at home, prepare at the show, and, then, give it your best shot! You'll be surprised just how far this approach can take you.

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