10 Tips to Pick the Right Show Pig

This time of year we get numerous calls from people searching for a showpig.  We find that when the buyer and breeder work together to find the right pig to meet the buyers needs everyone benefits.  We like to spend some one on one time with our customers whether it be in person, at the farm, or on the phone, with buyers who plan to purchase pigs through our Buy Now Online offerings or Hand Picked options, to try and find that perfect pig for them. 

We like to discuss the following points with clients to help them find the pig that best meets their needs.  If you consider these 10 tips before shopping for a pig the process should go a lot smoother and you should be able to pick the right show pig to make your project a success.

1. Determine your goal?

Your goal may be to win a class at your county show or it may be to make the sale at a major show.  Whatever it may be, setting a goal gives you something to work towards. 

Setting a realistic achievable goal is important. Your realistic goal needs to depend upon factors other than a desire to win. Showing pigs is just like playing basketball.  You should expect to work with your pig EVERYDAY just like you would expect to practice with a basketball team everyday.  Having a winning pig is more than having a great pig, it includes feeding knowledge, hair and skin care, clipping appropriately for the show, training your pig and making sure that the pig gets shown.

It normally takes a couple of years to really get the hang of showing too.  You will have to train your pig, be able to handle your pig, make sure that you show the judge the best views of your pig, and be able to “read” the ring.  All of this does not normally happen your first time in the ring.

Discussing your goals with breeders will help them find a pig that can potentially help you achieve your goal. You must be willing to put in hours of work every day.  Working with a knowledgeable ag teacher, county agent or breeder is a must. If you are doing this on your own you will need to select a breeder that has a history of winning, is knowledgeable and is willing to work with you. Many breeders are able to help from afar using technology.

hitting your target, 10 Tips of picking the right show pig

2. Determine what show or shows the pig will shown at?

Before you go shopping for pigs know the dates of the shows that you plan to attend, what sex of pig can be shown, weight limits (both bottom and top weights), and classes at the show.  Gather all of this information before you go to buy a pig.

Show shows may show all breeds together while other shows may have separate classes for each breed or may group similar breeds together to form classes like Black Other Pure Bred (OPB)  containing  Spots, Polands and Berks.   Some people buy a pig with the intent of only showing it at one show while others may plan on showing it at multiple shows.  Stock Show Resource Guides simplify the process of finding this information.

Most reputable breeders will be familiar with major shows but will probably not know all of the details for county shows throughout the state.   Knowing information about what shows you plan to attend will dictate what pig you should buy.

3. Decide what breed are you looking for?

There are a number of reasons to think about what breed to show.  Here are a few reasons:

  • Different breeds have different temperaments. Discuss the patience level and experience of the showman with the breeder to find a pig that is best suited to the person showing it.
  • White breeds need to be kept inside out of the sunlight so the type of facility where the pig will be kept can also dictate what breed you should buy.
  • If you are planning on attending a major show different breeds show at different times during the week. Sometimes part of the week is more convenient with work schedule.
  • The number of classes and number of animals that sell per class varies by breed at Major shows in Texas. Check show websites to find out how many classes will be offered in each breed and ow many animals sell.
  • Some breeds will be grouped together at certain shows. For example San Antonio is the only major barrow show in Texas that offers Landrace classes.  At other major shows Landrace pigs are grouped with Chesters in White Other Pure Bred Classes.  In Texas most show pigs will fall into one of 8 breeds.  Start by learning what these breeds look like then research your show and or Major Shows to see if these breeds show by themselves or are grouped with other breeds. There are currently NO Major shows in Texas with Hereford classes.  Hereford hogs will show with crosses.
  • At most barrow shows in Texas, pigs do not have to be registered to show under a breed but have to meet breed characteristics.  So that means that you can show a “Hamp appearing” pig that is a cross and does not have Hampshire registration papers as a Hamp.  The same thing is true about Yorks.  Most York barrows that win in Texas shows are “York appearing” white crosses.  Gilts must be purebred and possess registration papers to be shown at Texas and Oklahoma Majors.  Without registration papers they will show are crosses.

4. What age pig are you looking for?

Some breeds grow faster than other breeds.  Some breeds like Durocs grow very fast while crossbreds tend to grow slower. Different genetics within a breed will also grow at different rates.  Work with a breeder and discuss how fast their pigs grow.  Most breeders will have several genetic lines and can guide you to find a pig that will be the right size for your show. Most show pigs today reach 230-280 lbs in around 6 months.  However some will reach this weight in 5.5 months while others may take up to 7 months.  Breeders know their genetics better than anyone else and should be able to help you pick the right age pig for your  show. 

5. What sex of pig do you need for your show?

 Gilts are female pigs while castrated males are called barrows. Some county shows allow both barrows and gilts to be shown while other will only allow barrows.  Major shows are divided into Market Shows where only barrows can show and Gilt Shows where only gilts can show. You will need to know what sex of pig that you can show at the shows that you are planning on attending before buying a show pig.

Male or female pig

6. What part of the country will the pig be raised in?

Raising a show pig in the Texas Panhandle is very different from raising a show pig in south Texas.  Weather can be a major factor in what age pig you should buy. A experience breeder will be able to help guide you to the right age pig.

7. What are the facilities like where the pig will be raised?

Some pigs will be raised in a heated barn while others will be raised in a hut outside.  Those raised in a warm environment will grow much faster than those in a cold environment.  You need to know what your facilities will be like and then discuss them with the breeder to help find the right age of pig. 

barn, show pig shelter

8. What is your experience level?

To have the best experience and for you to be able to achieve your goals we suggest that you find someone in your area that is successful showing pigs that is willing to help you.  This may be your FFA advisor, county agent or a friend.  We recommend that you get them involved in the project  from the start which includes purchasing your pig.  Showing pigs is a TEAM effort.  We always tell clients that only 25% of the work is done when you buy a pig.  The other 75% of the work is up to you.  Working with someone who know how to train, feed and show pigs will help you achieve your goals. Some breeders will also be willing to help you with training, feeding and showing.  If you need this help, make sure to find a breeder that is willing to help you from the start.

9. What is your budget?

Most people have a budget to work within.  Talk to your FFA Advisor or County agent to get a realistic price range that show pigs cost. Do some research on breeders and their success then contact them to see what their pigs cost.  

You Get What You Pay For.
There are LOTS of people who raise pigs but FEW breeders who are successful year after year.  You will be able to find a cheap pig but he may never have the potential to turn into a good show pig and it may be unrealistic to achieve your goal.  You don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for a pig to win a class at a major show but it is rare for a very cheap pig to have the genetic ability to win.  The breeders who win year after year have made a commitment and spent large sums of money to buy the correct genetics that can win in the show ring.  Not all pigs are Show Pigs!

Set a reasonable budget and discuss prices with the breeder before setting up an appointment to view pigs to ensure that the breeder will have a pig to fit your price range

piggy bank, budget for show pig

10. Does the show that you plan to attend have any specific regulations such as requiring the pig to be Texas Bred or requiring purebred animals to have Registration Papers?

To show at the Texas Elite gilt shows your pig must be a Certified Texas Bred Pig and must possess a CTBR paper which will come from a CTBR Breeder.  Check the Breeder listing on the Texas Pork Producers website for a list of Texas CTBR Breeders.   Purebred gilts must have a registration paper.  If you are planning on at a major show check into the requirements including age requirements. 

CTBR Texas Bred Logo

Spending a little extra time upfront to plan for your project this year will help you pick the right show pig to achieve your goals.  Finding a good breeder with a history of success that will take the time to help you pick the right show pig and work with you throughout the project can make the project a success.