Monday, August 20, 2012

Matt Monday - Michigan

For at least one and a half years, Dan has told me that I had to experience the great Shiawassee County Fair - "the BEST county fair in all of Michigan." So, we planned to come visit. Then, he was asked to judge the youth swine showmanship competition. Well, he couldn't turn that down! Isn't that the sign that you have officially made it? When your old stomping grounds asks you back as an official?

The deal was sealed; we would go to Michigan - and we would need to be there by Sunday, August 5. We were able to score some pretty sweet tickets on Allegiant airlines. If you are familiar with Allegiant, you can only fly on certain days. Flying from Mesa to Grand Rapids, we were limited to travelling on Thursdays or Sundays. This paved the way for us to get away to our beloved Midwest for TEN. WHOLE. DAYS!

I digress. This post is supposed to have pictures and have something to do with my brother.

Well, I must admit that the Shiawassee County Fair's youth swine show was quite impressive. There were just over 200 youth showing hogs. This meant that Dan had quite the job to do! Judging those youth split into 4 divisions took about 5 hours! During each round, he spoke to each child about the ways that he/she could show the hog off better to the judge.  While it took a while to deliver that kind of personal advice, I must admit, it was far more attention than I got while showing. :)

Dan's brother Tim is a leader for one of the 'hog clubs.' (For the Iowans, Shiawassee County Fair has 'project clubs' as opposed to the community clubs that we're familiar with.) One of Tim's club members has purchased pigs from my brother and been very pleased with them.  This year, she bred one of the gilts purchased from Matt and ended up with a litter of 14 show pigs.  Nine days later, the barn was up in flames.  So, she, her parents and Tim headed to Iowa in April to buy some more "good Iowa pigs."

Let me tell you what, those were some gooood Iowa pigs! One of the show superintendents told her, as they were weighing in, "Those are the largest boned pigs I have ever seen!" When Lindsay came into the ring for showmanship, I thought the same thing. He was a big boned, heavy muscled beauty.  I was impressed. Then, I was told that this one didn't even compare to the one being shown as the market individual.

The next day during the market show, it was very fun to watch since I had a 'stake' in it. Of course, I wanted the judge to choose my brother's pig! However, as the day wore on, I saw the judge consistently pick Hamp and Spot pigs...and not the York or blue-butts. I wondered if he had a bias against the more 'maternal' breeds.

Well, I had little reason to worry.  As soon as that pig entered the ring, the judge spotted it.  He won his class handily.  He won the Heavyweight Market Individual easily.  So, it was no surprise - but we were certainly elated - when he was selected as the Grand Champion Market Hog. He was explosive! (Unfortunately, my pictures don't quite do him justice.)

Cindy, Lindsay and Greg Richmond with "Cy"

Lindsay with her hardware. (If I was a better show-animal photographer, Cy would have his head up, so that you could really see how long and stout he is.)

Lindsay with Cy's buyers at the sale. Here you can see more of Cy's length and power.
It was very fun to watch Lindsay win. This win could not have come at a better time or to a better family.  It has been a tough year for them, and success never tastes sweeter than when it follows a time of suffering.

It was also very gratifying to watch one of my brother's pigs win.  His foray into the show pig business really began from similar circumstances.  In January of 1999, our farrowing house caught fire - killing 14 sows, each with a full litter.  The loss came at an awful time in the pork industry - when producers were receiving $.05/hundred pounds.  While the decision wasn't easy, it was clear. Our family would not continue in the pork industry.  However, my brother would still have enough pigs for 4-H and FFA.  At this point, he had an opportunity to build a herd with show characteristics.

Growing up, we showed pigs selected from our herd. They did alright - but they weren't bred for the show. They were bred for market.  ...and they looked like it. ...and, receiving a blue was expected. Getting penned was a highlight. Winning?  A dream...but not too likely.

Then, Matt had this opportunity.  Has he ever capitalized it! He has invested so much time, sweat, and effort into transforming the herd and our farm. It is amazing to see his vision take shape.  Every victory that he experiences has been hard earned.  I am so proud of him.

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