It’s been a while since my last post! Since school resumed at UW, I’ve been keeping busy with going to class, doing assignments, working and preparing UW-Madison’s entry for the National Agri-Marketing Association student marketing competition.
With so much going on, it’s been great to be home at the farm over the past couple days for spring break. I was particularly excited to get home and check out the newest additions to the farm.
The last sow left our farm in the mid-90s – the decision to get out of the hog business was one that allowed our family to retool facilities to raise more cattle. Despite this, ever since I was old enough, each summer we have had a handful of show pigs for the Wisconsin State Fair and other shows.
My sister, Bailey, has long wanted to farrow some of her own pigs – to have the chance to raise a litter from birth on up. This winter, she got her wish, when she got her first bred gilt. After much anticipation, her litter of 10 black and white belted pigs was born about two weeks ago on an unseasonably cold night. While the inside of the pig barn was warm, the biting wind that night made keeping the temperature at ideal levels challenging to say the least. A lot of extra attention was needed and Bailey was the first to volunteer to stay outside overnight watching over the tiny piglets.
All of the time and attention she has given that group of animals over the last couple weeks has gotten me thinking about the life lessons that participating in youth livestock programs and 4-H teach kids. A few years ago, CNN’s Eatocracy blog ran an op-ed questioning whether these programs “desensitized” kids to the suffering of animals.
Those of us who have been a part of youth animal projects as kids through organizations like 4-H and FFA know the deep sense of responsibility and respect youth gain for animals through these projects. Youth learn the deep importance of working with their veterinarian to raising animals in a safe, ethical way. And yes, they also learn that those animals have an ultimate purpose of providing food.
I would argue that all of the show pigs I have cared for have been some of my best teachers in my life. They’ve taught me a lot about kindness, patience and hard work. Those are lessons that will benefit me far beyond the show ring.