Show

How to Select a Show Pig: Tips for Choosing a Champion

Bryan Vaughan,

Honor® Show Chow® Ambassador

Summary: Selecting the right show pig and feeding to maximize genetic potential are keys to showring success. First, choose the pig that matches your target show goals in age and maturity. The ideal show pig should be sound, well designed in body and healthy.
 

Combining genetics with the right nutrition and management helps create the formula for raising a champion. Choosing the right show pig for your project is a key to showring success. So where do you start?

Keep these tips in mind when selecting your show pig for the season:

1. Your show pig breeder is your partner

There are many resources available to find reputable breeders, including websites, magazines or trade publications. Don’t overlook the value of talking to other showmen in your area as well.
 
A local breeder can become a valuable resource to help establish goals for your project and troubleshoot along the way. The breeder you choose can be there to help with finite details such as grooming, management, daily care and feeding strategies.
 
Call each of the breeders you’ve been referred to and get to know them before you visit their barn. This allows you to ask questions, build a relationship and inquire about the specific pigs they’ve bred and raised. Once you develop a rapport with the breeder and feel comfortable, you can align your goals with the show pigs they have available.

2. How to select a show pig

After choosing the right breeder as your partner, it’s time to select your pig. During selection, trust your gut – if something looks incorrect, it probably is. Consider the following when deciding which show pig is best for your project:

Target show goals

Start by researching the class breakouts of your target show. Do they break classes by breed and weight or by weight only? Are barrows and gilts shown together or separately? Once you’re familiar with the class breakdown, give the breeder specific details about your show day goals. For example, “My show is July 12th and my weight range goal is between 230 to 280 pounds.”
 
A breeder will know the genetic potential of pigs they have available to fit those parameters. In today’s show world, selecting a pig has become more about age and maturity in relation to your show date than starting weight. The breeder can point you in the direction of pigs to choose from, which gives you more confidence in meeting showring goals.

Soundness

Think of a skyscraper. It’s not sitting on a rocky ledge; a structurally sound building has a foundation with heavy beams. The same goes for show pigs. Judges look for pigs that are well built from the ground up.
 
It’s not enough to look at a show pig’s muscle shape while in the pen. When selecting your show pig, it’s best to get them out of the pen to assess soundness and how they move. Look for solid, wide toes pointed in the same, forward direction and stout legs. A sound show pig should move fluidly in their joints as they walk.

Overall show pig design

From the side profile, a pig should be level-made and tall at the shoulder. In the ideal pig, shoulder height should be equal to hip height. Pigs that are not level-made and lack shoulder height will appear as if they “run downhill” – higher at the point of the hips and lower at the shoulders.
 
Depth of body is another important consideration. A pig lacking depth of body will have a tubular shape between the front and back legs.
 
Evaluate width as the pig walks towards and away from you. From the front, look at the distance between the shoulder blades, which will indicate chest floor width. Their legs should also be squarely set under the chest and hips.

Show pig health

The pig you want to bring home should be up and active with bright eyes, and healthy skin and hair. A healthy pig will also utilize nutrients more efficiently, which can help your show pig look and perform its best in the ring. Be sure to ask about prior health history and medications the pigs have received.

3. Develop a show pig feeding program to maximize potential

After carefully selecting your show pig, feed to maximize their genetic potential. You can buy the best pig money can find, but if you miss opportunities with nutrition, you won’t meet your show day goals.
 
Nutrition is like an athlete in training. You don’t see professional athletes at fast food restaurants. They have dieticians to formulate their nutrition and individual meal plans. Show pigs are similar; by developing an individualized feeding program for your show pigs, you can maximize the traits you’ve already selected.
 
The feed you start your show pig on depends upon their age and maturity, as well as their specific growth and development needs. There are medicated options for younger show pigs, such as Honor® Show Chow® Prelude® 309, or Showpig 709 for older pigs. Work with your local Purina retailer to help find the best nutrition solution for your show pig. They can also be a resource for nutrition advice every step of the way.
 
Ready to try Honor® Show Chow® feeds with your show pigs? Take our Feed Greatness™ Challenge.
 
Visit our Show Hub for more show pig resources.