Let them eat cake indeed. Literally.
Three weeks ago we weighed the pigs and discovered, much to our dismay, that they were not on track to make weight for the fair. Not good. Really, REALLY not good.
In order to show one’s animal at the fair it must weigh a specified minimum amount on the Tuesday of fair week. In order to sell one’s animal at the Junior Livestock Auction, one must show one’s animal at the fair. And, in order to make a profit on one’s animal, one must sell it at the Junior Livestock auction. The math is simple. Sell at the auction = make several hundred dollars on the pigs. Don’t sell at the auction = lose several hundred dollars on the pigs.
The math to figure average daily rate of gain is relatively simple as well and the numbers indicated we were in trouble. The 1.5 lbs./day they were gaining was not enough to get them to the target weigh by August 9. Enter the cake.
For three weeks, every morning and every night, after eating her fill of her regular food, each pig got her own bowl of cake batter, made of a cake mix, three eggs, and whole milk. Let them eat cake!
And they did. Grace’s pig’s average daily rate of gain jumped to 3 lbs./day; Miles’ pig’s was slightly lower. Both pigs made the minimum weight; Miles’ was 7 lbs. in the clear and Grace’s 11 lbs. Let the show begin!
Show day dawned and the pigs were uncharacteristically ornery. Grumpy. Almost hostile. Taking an ornery, grumpy, borderline hostile pig into the show ring is not ideal…. And they had been kind and cooperative pigs in all our past interactions. What was going on?
Ah ha! Could it be they wanted cake? For weeks they’d had two-a-day but we’d not given them cake since they’d made weight two days earlier…. A quick trip to Grandma’s house, two cake mixes, six eggs, and two cups of milk later the pig’s docile temperament was restored.
The show began and it began well for us. In the first hog class of the day, Miles’ pig placed second (in a class of 12 hogs) earning her the right to complete in the weight division finals. [There were 165 hogs in the show, divided into 4 divisions of 4 classes each.] In the second hog class of the day, Grace’s pig earned first place honors so she also qualified for the division finals.
In the light weight division finals Grace’s hog again placed first—FIRST!!!—which qualified her for the championship round. Miles’ hog placed 8th in the class. He did not qualify for the championship round but, because he qualified for the division final, his hog received “Star Class” designation which meant he got a cool ribbon (nice) and a spot high up in the auction order (VERY nice as a high auction order spot generally means a higher price at auction).
Being in the championship round made Grace very happy—VERY, VERY HAPPY—but it did NOT make her hog happy. The animal was tired of the noise, the heat, and the exercise; its only desire was to return to the pen for a nap. Grace tried to enter the judge’s line of sight while the pig tried to exit the show ring. Neither of them succeeded very well. Gratefully it was the pig’s external features being evaluated, not its internal attitude. And it had a great butt! Its ham was huge, its shoulder wide, its torso long, and its final placing was 8th over-all. Grace was in hog heaven! Eighth of 165 hogs is in the top 5%, the best a Hislop animal has ever done. WHAAAA-WHOOO!
Grace’s hog’s attitude remained ugly so showmanship was a wash. [Junior livestock participants generally show twice a day. The first show judges the animals, the second show judges the participant’s ability to present their animals.] Miles, on the other hand, excelled. He kept his animal in front of the judge, maintained eye contact, and radiated confidence and professionalism. He was clearly one of the best in his class and was invited to participate in the championship round.
In the championship round he was rocking it and he knew it. Again, he was driving the pig (rather than following it), was keeping it in the judge’s line of sight and was maintaining almost constant eye contact. The judge told him to pen his hog, which he did effortlessly. Then the judge told him to re-enter the show ring which he did confidently…and tragically.
When he re-entered the ring, he neglected to close the pen gate. “Close the gate, close the gate, close the gate….” Grace, Joe Diorgano (their 4-H leader), and I silently willed him. “Please close the gate.” Our willed wishes did not make it across the show ring and the gate remained open.
At the championship level of competition, leaving the gate open is a fatal flaw. Like stepping across the line in a gymnastic floor routine, it is a small error with huge consequences. Sweet Miles, who knew he was excelling, did not realize he’d fallen and, when he did not place, he was more than crestfallen. The tears did not show until he’d exited the show ring but they did make their appearance. Ouch. Nonetheless, being invited to the championship round is something to celebrate and learning, at 12, to shut the pen gate is a good thing. (What are the chances the lesson will extend to learning to shut the house door???)
Grace also entered a sheep in the fair. Her lamb, a mediocrely muscled animal, easily made weight (which was nice) and placed in the middle of its market class (which was expected). Her super sheep moment came in the showmanship class where, despite not having shown a lamb for years, she was invited into the championship round. Though she did not place, being there placed her on a happy high.
Market class rankings and showmanship honors are nice but the bottom line is the auction. For the kids, the livestock’s main purpose is to make money and that happens (to one degree or another) at the auction. Though all the animals sell, some sell at much higher prices than others and everyone’s hope—parents and participants alike—is that their animal’s selling price will be on the higher end of the spectrum.
Grace and her hog entered the auction arena and the bidding began. Much to our surprise, there was actual back and forth bidding. [Always before our animals have sold to the first bidder, a charitable someone who took pity on us and raised their hand.] Four dollars a pound…four and a quarter….four and a half…. Finally sold at $5.50/lb.!!!
Miles’ hog also entertained several back and forth bids, selling at $4.25/lb.
Though its auction price was not the highest, the lamb’s auction experience was the most gratifying. The man who bought Grace’s hog last year, impressed by her letter and her demeanor, told her that he’d bid on her animal again this year. He bid on her hog (which was the reason the price went so high) but lost the bid so he tried again with her lamb. Grace says she saw him bid himself up several times before someone else entered the bidding. Again, the bidding went back and forth, settling finally on $4.75/lb, sold to……. Joe Diorgano, her 4-H leader! Grace showed wearing her FFA jacket and, aside from attending two judging contests with Joe, did little with 4-H this year. Joe has 45 members in his 4-H club, one of whom is his own daughter. And he bought Grace’s lamb. “She earned it,” he told me later. “She is such a hard worker and a good person.”
My heart is so full. SO FULL. It is filled with gratitude for the generous folks at Wadman Construction and Les Schwab Tire of Roy who bought the pigs. It is filled with immense and intense gratitude for the owner of Diamond K who bid on Grace’s animals both times and is the reason her sale prices were as high as they were and to Joe who donates lots and lots of hours and now lots and LOTS of money to 4-H kids. I am also incredibly grateful to all of you, family and friends, who boosted the kids, augmenting their college/mission accounts and their confidence. Thank you and thank you.
Cake got the kids to the fair. The auction was definitely icing on the proverbial cake. YUM!