If you've got kids and breed pigs, at some point you'll probably run across a kid working on a 4-H swine project. But what all is involved and what will they need to complete the project successfully. A project guide curriculum will guide children and parents through the project and should be obtained as soon as possible. Children are taught how to select, feed, raise, breed and market their pigs while learning and practicing valuable life skills such as public speaking, working with others, responsibility, decision making, organization, planning, and study skills. Let's take a look at what's needed for a child's 4-H pig project!
Selection: If your child is planning on showing a pig, the show's limitations are important when you select a piglet for the project. If there is a weight limit, for example, you'll want to recommend a breed and line that will not exceed that limit. If, on the other hand, breeding is the desired outcome of the project, having a high quality, registered pig is more important. Having someone who is familiar with the 4-H program helping during selection will help prevent problems later on.
Feeding and Husbandry: At a minimum, the pig will require a pen at least 6'x12' in area of reinforced fence or hog panels with shelter and a windbreak available to them. Bedding of wood chips or straw is especially important during the winter. Feed should be available at all times, as should clear, fresh water. Once the pig reaches 125 pounds, you'll want to start monitoring growth closely so as to have the pig in the best possible condition when it's time to show. Weigh the pig weekly at the same time of day on the same day and record the figures; after a few weeks, you can calculate an average daily gain.
Veterinary Care: Regular care of the pig, including a deworming and vaccine schedule, necessary surgeries and disease prevention and management are an important part of learning about a pig's health issues. Part of this process is learning about breeding cycles, farrowing issues and other reproductive system related concerns. It is especially important to stay on top of any possible health issues arising from going to shows, where the pig is exposes to other pigs that may be disease carriers.
Market Values: The process of selecting and purchasing a pig gives a child experience in the expected market values of the pig they are selecting as well as how to negotiate a contract. By keeping track of expenses such as housing, veterinary care and feed will help the child understand what costs are involved in raising pigs.
Image courtesy of Rachel Wente-Chaney.