5 Mistakes to Avoid with Your New Show Pig Project

goals health receiving show pig Oct 13, 2021

We're deep in the heart of fall sale season and that means families across the South are loading their show barns with new project animals. It's easy to love this time of year. Everyone is full of hope and it's always so exciting to get new projects home and get them started. Amidst that excitement, however, looms the fact that the first 30 days, and especially the first week after you receive your show pigs, are critical time periods that can have an enormous impact on the success of your project for weeks or months down the line when it's finally time to hit the show ring. 

When we buy new pigs, it's an extremely stressful time for those animals. We're moving them to new homes, they need to get used to their new environment. It's possible they've been hauled across the country and exposed to other pigs, from other farms, which increases the likelihood of transferring disease amongst animals. All of these factors together combine to create a tremendous health risk for your animals. 

We like to call the first 30 days of your project the receiving period, and when you're receiving pigs, you need to be on your A-game. Here are five mistakes you can avoid with your new show pig project: 

1. Waiting too long to call the vet.  In The Showman's Guide to Show Pig Health (an online course from herdly.io), Todd Price, DVM says "The number one mistake people make when it comes to show pigs is simply waiting too long. Waiting too long to vaccinate. Waiting too long to diagnose and treat an animal that isn't feeling well. Waiting too long to ask for help." 

The best show pig feeders know that the time to act is the first moment you notice an animal isn't feeling well. Observe the animal, work with a trusted advisor to diagnose the problem, and begin working with your veterinarian's guidance to treat the issue. 

2. Being afraid to ask questions. It takes a team approach to have a successful project. Your family, the breeder of your pigs, your advisor, your veterinarian - they all want to see you succeed and they're all invested in your success.  When you get started with a new set of pigs, whether it's your first time or your final show season, there are a lot of questions to get answered.  Don't be afraid to ask. Know who's on your team and rely on them for advice. They want to help!

3. Starting the project without a Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR).  If you feed pigs or care for any livestock for that matter, there's about a 100% chance that, at some point, you're going to need a veterinarian.  A VCPR is simply a working relationship between you and your vet. Your vet wants to know your facilities, the health status of your animals, and the goals you have for your project in order to best guide your family. 

Every show pig feeder should have a VCPR with a firm in their area that understands the specific challenges you may face with your show pig project. Get to know your vet. Have them out to your place. Ask them questions and get them engaged in your project before you have health concerns. Doing so will ensure you're more prepared to conquer challenges when they inevitably arrive. 

4. Ignoring vaccination & receiving protocols.  This is a big conversation for such a small space, but long story short, you need to know your plan for how you'll receive pigs and what kind of vaccination program (if any) you need to be on in your barn. This is where your relationship with the breeder supplying your pigs and your VCPR are really going to come into play. Ask your breeder what kind of vaccination program the pigs have been on at the farm. Record this information and talk with your veterinarian about where and when you intend to show your pigs, if you're showing market hogs or breeding gilts, if you're getting pigs from multiple breeders or just one, how your pigs are being transported to the farm, and work with your team to plan a vaccination and receiving protocol to ensure the health of your project animals from day one.  [We take a deep dive into this conversation - and a whole lot more - in The Showman's Guide to Show Pig Health.]

5. Failing to evaluate your show pig housing.  Pigs have such great personalities that people who show pigs really tend to baby them, so it may sound a little funny to suggest the idea that your show pig housing needs evaluation.  If you've already shown pigs before, the odds are you've already solved some problems and your pig facilities are pretty good. Even so, it's a good idea to re-evaluate your housing situation each show season. What can be done to improve the environment for the pigs?  How can we better manage our facility throughout the season to maximize pig health and performance? Answering those questions before you get your next set of pigs can expedite your progress with the project. 

On the other hand, if you're just starting to show pigs, or if you've experienced health challenges with past projects, it's a really good idea to work with your breeder, veterinarian, or advisor to evaluate where you're going to keep your pigs.  Pig housing doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, but it does have to provide a dry, draft-free environment for your animals - and someone with experience can easily help you ensure that your facility 

Avoid these five mistakes when you receive pigs this year and I'll see you at the backdrop! - BJE

P.S.  -  If you liked this article, you should definitely check out The Showman's Guide to Show Pig Health. It's an online course that can help you avoid tons of mistakes. Whether you're just getting started showing pigs, or you've been doing it for years, Dr. Price is an amazing teacher and I guarantee this course will set your family up for more success this show season. - BJE

herdly.io offers video-based online courses in showing livestock, taught by the industry’s most talented breeders and feeders. We're here to help you win - in the show ring and beyond. 

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