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Four Tips for Starting Young Show Pigs

Kevin Burgoon, Ph.D.

Senior Nutritionist, HONOR Show Chow Technical Solutions

When starting a show pig project, keeping pigs healthy and developing the right nutrition program are two important components. Choosing the right show pig starter feed can mean the difference between fifth place and a champion banner.
 
A successful show pig project begins even before your pig arrives home. While the ultimate goal is winning the banner on show day, researching and choosing the right feed and management program lays the foundation for your show pig project.
 
Here are four tips for starting a show pig project with champion goals in mind:

1. Keep your show pig healthy

The transition from the breeder’s barn to yours can be a stressful time for show pigs. Travel time, an unfamiliar environment and a new social order between pigs can make them more susceptible to disease. Proper care and feeding help minimize the impact of these stressors.
 
It’s recommended to medicate pigs for 14 days when you first bring them home to support a healthy start in their new environment. Water-soluble medications, such as tetracycline or lincomycin, are options to help prevent respiratory and pulmonary diseases. Be sure to contact your local veterinarian to obtain a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) for use.

2. Choose the right starter show pig feed 

A healthy pig will utilize nutrients more efficiently, which means your show pig will look and perform better in the ring. Honor® Show Chow® Prelude® 209Honor® Show Chow® Prelude® 309 and Honor® Show Chow® Showpig 509 are medicated starter feeds that do not require a VFD. These feeds are medicated with Denagard, which targets pathogens that cause scouring.
 
Prelude® 209 and Prelude® 309 include Vitacy-S™. This ingredient contains medium-chain fatty acids derived from coconut oil, which helps improve gut health and reduce the severity of pathogens. Ambitine® feed technology also helps support proper gut health and feed intake.
 
Developing the right feed program can help take your show pigs to champion status. Soundness and how your pig moves matter as much as muscle and fat in the show ring. After selecting a sound pig from a breeder, you can feed to preserve these qualities.
 
Consider individual show pig needs when choosing feeds. For example, if your pig is heavily muscled, look for a feed lower in lysine. This nutrient helps pigs use amino acids correctly to form muscle protein. If you’d like to develop more muscle to fill out your show pig, choose a higher lysine feed such as Showpig® 509.
 

Use this show pig feeding chart to decide which starter feed is right for your project:

 
Honor® Show Chow® feed Pig weight Key product features
Prelude® 209 12 to 15 lbs
  • Highly digestible and palatable
  • Nutrient dense to support intake and growth of young pigs
  • Includes Vitacy-S™ and Ambitine® feed technology
Prelude® 309 15 to 25 lbs
  • Extremely high energy (8 percent fat)
  • Balanced for true illeal digestible (TID) amino acids and energy
  • Includes Vitacy-S™and Ambitine®  feed technology
Showpig® 509 25 to 50 lbs
  • High energy (7 percent fat)
  • Protein sources promote muscle shape and fill
  • Ideal for preparing pigs for sale
  • Includes Ambitine® feed technology
 

3. Consistently manage show pigs

Managing your project each day can make or break the difference between fifth and first place. Here are a few key points to remember for creating consistency with young show pigs:
  • Ensure the feeder is the right size for your pig to allow easy access to feed. A hanging feeder is best to keep feed off the ground and encourage pigs to keep their head up, as they would in the show ring.
  • Hand feed to closely monitor pig health and feed intake. With a self-feeder, it becomes difficult to measure how much a pig is eating each day. Hand feeding allows for more control of how fast the pig is growing and developing.
  • Pigs are creatures of habit. Feed pigs on a consistent schedule each day to help them develop at the proper pace.
  • Provide free-choice access to fresh, clean water. Water intake has a direct relation to feed intake.
  • Consider offering 4 to 6 ounces of steam rolled oat groats each day. Steam rolled oat groats can help keep pigs on feed, as they are easily digestible and help with stool consistency.

4. Spend time with your project

Think of your show pig as an athlete in the ring that needs training beforehand. You want it to perform well, walk with its head up and respond to commands from your show instrument. It’s important to gain your pig’s trust and become partners for show day performance. Spending time with your pig each day allows you to form a bond with them.
 
Most importantly, have fun with your show pig project. Showing livestock brings families together to create lifelong memories. Responsibility, life lessons and watching hard work pay off are just a few rewards of showing pigs. 
 
Ready for the next step? Learn about increasing growth rate in show pigs.