Showing a hog is one of the most common 4-H and FFA projects for all members. Raising a show hog consists of many things, but other than the feeding program you choose, the two greatest factors that are in your control and will attribute to your success in the ring, are grooming and exercise. For beginners, you may wonder how it is possible to groom a hog? In fact, you probably chose the project because unlike sheep, goats, or cattle, it appears that there would be little grooming of a hog. Unfortunately, there is a lot of work that goes into the maintenance of your show hog, if success is what you desire.
Reasons for grooming and bathing your hog daily will aid you in the overall appearance of your project come show day. There are several benefits that will make getting the hog ready for its day in the ring that you can obtain from daily grooming. First, the daily bathing of your pig will keep his skin free of dirt and parasites that can live on his skin. Hogs can get mites and “the itch” which will make them uncomfortable. This condition can be compared to mange and is derived from a mite. The condition is usually more prevalent in the winter months and can be spread to other hogs by contact. The skin will become think and flaky and may have red bumps, and your pig will constantly want to itch itself on something. Curing the condition is pretty simple by topical sprays. If your hog gets this condition, you want to be sure that you spray the pen area as well.
Also after the daily washing your hog, it is important to be sure that you condition their skin. If you have a white hog, this can be done with a mixture of any cheap conditioner and water in a spray bottle. If you have a dark skinned hog, then your best bet is to use purple oil. Purple oil can be purchased at most feed stores or show supply companies. Brushing their hair is another important factor with your show hogs. Not only will this help with getting their hair to lie down, but it will also help in calming and relaxing your pig. You will also need to clip the hair of your hog before show time. Many people keep their hogs clipped on a regular basis because it gets them use to the sound of the clippers and, it lets the products that you use on their skin penetrate more easily.
Exercise is another factor that you will need to concentrate on with your show hog. Some people will not begin to exercise their hogs until a few weeks before the show, however, if you start walking your hog from the beginning, it will be much better behaved. Getting to know the personality of your hog is really a great thing to understand as well. Some hogs will take off the minute they are turned out, therefore if you know this is a trait of your project, you can walk it before it is time to go to the ring. Also, just with an athlete, exercise gives your hog the opportunity to condition and create muscle. You want to make sure that come show day, your pig can actively walk for at least 20-30 minutes without getting tired, over heated, or just mad. Working with it and training it to keep its head up while moving is necessary! When you look at the natural movement of a hog, you can see that a hog that walks with their head up and not rooting will appear more level, and thus show positive traits of soundness and mass. In order to keep a hog's head up while moving, simply use your pig whip and “tickle” his ears or tap his nose. Hogs will usually respond in a positive manner to this action.
Another reason for daily exercise is to teach the hog direction. When any hog gets tired, they will start to walk the fence and look for the gate back to their pen. As I have said previously they are very smart animals. You want to exercise your hog daily so that you build up endurance and come show day, your hog will stay in the middle of the ring, instead of looking for a way back to the pen. Being able to successfully move your hog around the ring and show off the positive traits he posses will be one of your biggest assets on show day. You can also use buckets or cones in your exercise pen as obstacles to maneuver around. This will not only help train your project, but will also teach you how much guidance you hog needs. Doing the ground work at home will definitely give you the edge when it is finally time to walk into the ring and it will help get you to the winner's circle. Hard work and dedication will prevail.