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By Emily McAfee
NEMOnews Media Group
Agriculture is the string that binds small town communities together. It is a part of our nature, and molds us into hard working men and women.
The agriculture livestock industry is firmly planted in Scotland County. Multiple families strive to raise quality livestock on their family farms and to teach their kids the importance of taking care of animals.
These experiences can help kids find jobs in the agriculture industry and to help them become better leaders in their communities.
Blessing Family Berkshires
Waltedda Blessing and her family raise quality show pigs outside of Memphis. Her children, Morgan and Corbin, show pigs in 4-H and FFA.
The Blessing Family Berkshires began in 2011, after they purchased their first pig to show at the county fair.
“What kicked us off, is that our fair does a lot of giveaways for the kids, and Morgan won money towards the purchase of a purebred gilt to either bring the gilt or her offspring back the next year to the fair. So, we bought a registered Berkshire gilt and from there it just exploded, and we got crazy,” Waltedda said.
The Blessing family has around ten sows that they keep on their farm. Morgan, age 19, and Corbin, age 16, usually take eight to ten pigs to different shows during the year, depending on the pig’s weight or age.
“Gilt’s show by age, market shows by weight, and at the state fair we do take boars and it’s by age as well,” Waltedda explained.
“To show the boars at the state fair, they have to be born and raised on your farm. So, you can’t go out and buy one and take it to a show. It has to be raised by the exhibitor and that’s kind of a neat thing,” Waltedda stated.
Over the years, the Blessing family has shown many different types of pigs, including Berkshire, Poland, Hampshire, Tamworth, and crosses.
The kids usually take two or three pigs to show at the local county fairs and the Missouri State Fair. They also show at the Missouri Youth Show Pig Circuit, which starts at the end of April and ends in the middle of June.
“We raise our own pigs, so the kids have always been involved in picking the sires to breed. We AI everything, so we don’t keep a boar. They look at the different boar studs and they pick out which boar they think will complement the female the best. The kids are always involved in the whole process,” Waltedda said.
Since they raise their own show pigs on their farm, the family gets to see their stock excel. The kids really enjoyed showing, so the Blessings decided to start showing at bigger competitions.
“They liked it, so we started going to some bigger shows, like nationals. Just this past January, they both drew to go to Denver to the National Westerns,” Waltedda said.
To show at the National Westerns show you must apply, and the names are drawn to determine who can exhibit their animal. Any national show can be a stiff competition, but an exhibitor can witness the different qualities of pigs shown from multiple states.
The Blessing family has shown at pig shows in Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, and Illinois.
The family has shown at their local fair, the NEMO fair, the Missouri State Fair, the Missouri Youth Show Pig Circuit, the American Royal, and the FFA Expo in Mexico, MO.
At the Missouri State Fair, they won 2014 Reserve Champion 4-H and Reserve Open Berkshire Boar, 2016 Reserve Champion 4-H Berkshire Gilt, 2016 Champion 4-H and Champion Open Berkshire Boar, 2017 Champion AOB Gilt, 2017 Reserve Champion 4-H Berkshire Boar, and 2017 Reserve Champion 4-H Berkshire Gilt.
They have also won 2018 Reserve Champion 4-H and Reserve Champion Berkshire Boar, 2018 Champion FFA and Reserve Champion Open Berkshire Boar, 2018 Champion FFA Berkshire Gilt, 2020 Champion FFA and Champion Open Berkshire Boar, 2021 Champion 4-H and Reserve Champion Open Berkshire Boar 2021 Champion Open Hampshire Gilt, and 2021 Champion FFA 16 and Under Showmanship
These are all great accomplishments, but a pig cannot just be taken out of the pen and sent into the ring right away. There is a process of training the animal and feeding it to get the desired weight for the show ring.
All of the pigs are fed a little bit differently, depending on if they need more weight or less. To show a pig, you need to practice walking with them and steering them with the show whip. You must also clip its hair, wash it, and groom it.
The Blessings also want the pigs to have darker skin in the show ring.
“We have a little tanning light that hangs over a pen. The judges not only look at the conformation of the pig, but also skin and hair. It’s a big deal in the show ring and the judges will make comments sometimes on it,” Waltedda said.
The family enjoys spending time together as they travel to different pig shows.
“It’s a lot of traveling, but we do it as a family. We are together the whole time and there are a lot of late nights and early mornings loading pigs at 3 a.m. to drive three or four hours to a show and then we do it all over again the next day. It’s kind of our hobby,” Waltedda said.
Waltedda has some advice for those who might be thinking about raising pigs.
“It’s fun and I would encourage everyone to do it or at least try it once. It teaches life experiences and yes, it does take a lot of time, but you get to meet new people,” she said.
“There is a lot of daily work that a lot of people probably don’t understand that you have to do. The longer you are in it, the more secrets like that you find out.”
The family is planning on showing at local fairs, the Missouri Youth Show Pig Circuit, and the Missouri State Fair this year. They might also attend the Pork Expo in Des Moines, IA.
Stepping into the show ring, gives a person and an animal a platform to show that their excellence and hard work has paid off. Whether you show cattle, goats, pigs, or any other animal in the show ring, the most important thing to remember is to have fun and to lend a helping hand to those around you.