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Weighing in pigs for the fair

By Staff | Apr 9, 2010

Local farmer volunteer Dean Ekstrand, left, helps farmer Kyle Horner, right, to slip a weighing chain onto the hind legs of the piglets that Horner's daughter, Brittany Horner, will show at this summer's Pocahontas County Fair. Piglets are weighed hanging from their ankles because it allows for a safe, accurate measurement, while insuring no infections or bacteria are transfered from animal to animal due to contact with dirt or any other material that may get onto a normal scale.

POCAHONTAS – With fair season just a few months away in Iowa, 4-H’ers across the state are well into their preparations for their annual showcase.

A handful of Pocahontas County youths made their first visit to the fairgrounds March 27 weighing in piglets for the swine derby show.

Around eight young people took turns looking on as experienced pork experts, including Jerry Weiss, ISU Extension swine program specialist; Darwin Svuda, Pocahontas Fair Board president; and local farmer Dean Ekstrand, handled the squealing piglets to take weights, administer an injection and tag each animal for competition.

Weiss said special attention on animal health is a particular concern at these events, which is why piglets are weighed without ever touching the ground and steps are taken to sterilize the immunization and tagging equipment between each animal tagged.

“Biosecurity is a growing concern and that’s why we take these precautions,” Weiss said. “That’s why the owners handle their own pigs and why (the pigs) never touch the ground, any manure or anything like that.

Pocahontas County 4-H’er Carolyn DeWall, center, completes paperwork April 2 for her entry to the Pocahontas County Swine Derby Show with some help from her mother, Cindy Horner, right, and Pocahontas County Extension Youth Coordinator Lisa Zeman. DeWall is one of several local youths participating in the county's new pork challenge program, where 4-H’ers who live off-the-farm pair up with a local pork producer to learn about animal agriculture, work with their project animals to show those animal in the fair.

“We’re very particular about that, because we want the kids to have the best experience possible.”

Also, for the first time in Pocahontas several of the 4-H’ers weighing in their animals were off-the-farm members participating in the new pork challenge program.

These members will team up with local hog farmers to attend a series of meetings to learn about the pork industry and spend a minimum of three days on the farm feeding, cleaning, sorting or otherwise working with their project animals.

Junior 4-H member, Carolyn DeWall, said she was participating in the challenge project because she likes animals and looked forward to the chance to take on a new challenge in 4-H.

Her mother, Cindy DeWall, said both she and her daughter are looking forward to the experience.

“It’s about learning to take responsibility for the animal and for a project,” Cindy DeWall said. “She’s excited about it and I think it’s going to be a really good experience for her.”

Contact Kevin Stillman by e-mail at stillman.kw@gmail.com.

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