Wyatt, front, and his parents Laurie and Seth Link are Missouri Farm Bureau members from Linn County.
|In #4-H, it's about more than just raising a good hog.|
|#MOFB's #KnowYourFarmer presents Wyatt--a member of the next generation of #agriculture.|
It’s show time at the Linn County fair, the moment of truth for 4-H kids who have worked hard the past several months. Like other kids at the fair, 9-year-old Wyatt Link showed up with his barrow, Bullet, and gilt, Butterball, hoping for “something good” to happen. It is his second year showing hogs. Since March, he has been raising his hogs, feeding them, cleaning their pen, making sure they’re comfortable and training them for show.
“They eat a lot of feed,” Wyatt says. “I clean my hogs’ pen two times a week. I sometimes water them down with the watering can when it’s hot. They do a lot of stuff that we don’t know while I’m not in the pen. They like to chew on things and stuff like that. They do good. I try to walk them every morning so they’ll be ready for the fair and they’re doing pretty good.”
Caring for these hogs is no small task. It takes Wyatt about two and a half hours just to clean their pen in addition to their daily care.
“I can say there’s mornings he will beat me up,” says Seth Link, Wyatt’s father. “When he has his hogs and livestock, when he has his chores to do, he will be up before school — 6, 6:30 whatever it takes. If he has to get up early, he’ll get out there and do it that is one thing that he just loves doing.”
Currently, Wyatt plans to farm for the rest of his life. He would become the fifth generation, in a long line of row crop, cattle and hog farmers on his mother’s side. His grandfather has a farrow-to-finish hog operation that consists of around 40 sows with which Wyatt often helps.
“I really liked to help my grandpa with the pigs and stuff before I started,” Wyatt says. “I am mostly around them when I’m helping my grandpa, and I just like when they’re young because you can like hold them and all that.”
Having grown up helping out on his grandpa’s hog operation, Wyatt’s desire to show hogs came as no surprise to his parents.
“He’s always liked livestock,” Seth says. “He tends to be like his grandpa, and I tend to like machinery a little bit more. I think it’s just kind of being around the farm and being with grandpa and that was a natural fit for Wyatt.”
“I was excited,” says Laurie, Wyatt’s mom. “I showed pigs. So I was excited that he wanted to do that too, and it was something that I knew enough about that I thought maybe we could handle that so yes, it was very exciting.”
In 4-H, however, it isn’t just about raising a good hog. It is also about showmanship and teaching the kids involved how to properly care for and train their animal.
“The kids need to have to the discipline, I think, and the understanding to know why they’re doing what they’re doing and then how to do it properly so they don’t hurt their animals in any fashion,” Laurie says.
The show is a chance for the kids to display everything they’ve learned in 4-H. In the arena, they must demonstrate their ability to show and handle their animals properly. A few aspects of this that are especially important with hogs is keeping them cool and not over-stressing them. But caring for their animals doesn’t stop once they get to the fair. The animals must be still be cared for so they’re ready when it’s show time.
“What we usually do around here is I am either in the camper somewhere walking around or in the hog barns checking on my pigs,” Wyatt says. “I have a fan going for them. I have a water bucket and some feed pans, brushes and all the equipment that I need for them for the fair. It was tiring because our air conditioner was loud. It was pretty loud last night, but I was excited about coming and getting to show my hogs this year. My barrow weighs 294 pounds, and my gilt weighs 260 pounds.”
At the fair, Wyatt got his wish and “something good” happened. Bullet was a blue ribbon hog and placed first in his class and fifth in carcass. Even though Butterball placed third in her class, the judge still considered her a blue ribbon hog, making her eligible to be shown at the Missouri State Fair.
“It went great,” Laurie says. “Wyatt did really good. He had a good time. He showed his pigs well. He had a third place and a first place, and we could not ask for anything more than for him to do a good job showing and to have fun and for the pigs to do good. So very tickled. He knows how to grow a pig. His carcass pig placed fifth. So that’s wonderful. We’re very happy for him and hip hip hoorah!”
His parents are proud of him not only for his ability to show his hogs well, but also to see the drive, the dedication and the hard work he puts into something that he loves.
“I would imagine he will always do this,” Seth says. “This is something that he loves to do. I’m proud to see him because I don’t have to prod him. It’s something that he wants to do. He really loves it.”