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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

The Youth Market Hog Project -- Part II

Livestock Update, July 2000

Allen Harper, Extension Animal Scientist, Swine, Tidewater AREC


Preventive Health Management. Once healthy pigs are obtained to start the market hog project, regular care and management will be needed to keep the pigs healthy. It is much less costly to prevent health and disease problems with good management than to treat disease problems once they occur. Maintaining a good housing environment by keeping the pen clean and sanitary with frequent manure removal is important in this regard. Also, preventing stresses such as exposure to excessively high or low temperatures and providing proper ventilation will help prevent the occurrence of disease. Good quality feed and unlimited fresh drinking water also prevent stress and the likelihood of disease.

Usually feeder pigs will have received any required vaccinations as young piglets on the farm of origin. But, the original producer of the pigs should be consulted on what vaccinations were given and when. Assuming no additional vaccinations are needed, the focus should be on preventing internal and external parasites.

Internal parasites include various types of internal worms that can naturally infect pigs due to oral ingestion of worm eggs from the pig's environment (pen floors, dirt lots, etc.). Once ingested, internal parasites go through several life-cycle changes as they mature. They compete with the pig for nutrients and may cause tissue damage. Pigs that are heavily infested with internal parasites grow slower and are less resistant to disease and stress.

The most common internal parasite of pigs are large Roundworms, also called Ascarids. Sometimes mature Roundworms can be seen in the fresh feces of growing pigs. They appear as long (about 10 to 12 inches), tubular shaped worms that are beige to creamy white in color. Other important types of parasitic worms that can infect pigs include the Nodular worm, Whipworm, Lung worm, Stomach worm, Threadworm and Kidney worm.

Controlling internal parasites usually involves treatment with a commercial de-wormer product. There are a variety of products available and almost all products will effectively control Roundworms. However, certain products are broader spectrum and control several types of worms including Roundworms. When choosing a de-wormer, the project participant should consider types of worms controlled, cost and best method of administration for their situation.

The main external parasites that effect pigs are hog lice and mange mites. Adult hog lice are small "crab-like" insects about 1/4 inches long. They cling to the hair shafts, the skin and in the skin folds of pigs, especially along the neck and behind the ears. Lice do not burrow into the skin but irritate the pig by chewing into the skin to feed on blood and body fluids. Adult female hog lice lay eggs that are attached to the hair shafts of the pig. Although there are several species of lice found in nature, swine are the only host for the hog louse species. They do not infect other kinds of animals.

Mange mites are much smaller than hog lice and cannot be seen by the naked eye. These tiny creatures burrow into the skin of the pig, mate, lay eggs, and make new burrows in the skin for the young mites. Pigs with mild infections of mange mites may not show any serious symptoms, but heavily infected pigs will itch severely and will frequently scratch themselves against any solid surface. In severe cases the skin will become rough and scabbed over.

Hog lice are easier to control than mange mites because they live on the surface of the skin. A variety of insecticide dusts, sprays, dips or pour-ons that are labeled to control lice are available at livestock supply stores. There are also several sprays, dips and pour-on materials available for mange mite control, but they must be applied in a manner that penetrates into the skin burrows where the mites are located.

Project participants may want to consider labeled injectable drugs that control both internal parasitic worms and both types of external parasites. These include products with the drugs Ivermectin or Doramectin. Trade names for these types of products include Ivomec, Dectomax and Double Impact.

Safety and Pork Quality Assurance. On commercial hog farms and in youth market hog projects, it is important to remember that it is actually a food product, and not just pigs that is being produced. In order to assure that pork from project hogs is safe and wholesome, certain guidelines must be followed. Whenever insecticides or drugs are used to control parasites or when antibiotics are used to treat sick pigs, the label instructions must be followed precisely. Many products can be purchased as over-the-counter medications without veterinary prescription, so it is up to the pig producer to use them properly and safely. Other livestock drugs are regulated more strictly and can only be obtained and used through a prescription by a veterinarian.

Many medications and some swine insecticides have a mandatory pre-slaughter withdrawal period. This is the required period of time from when the pig was last treated with the product until it can be transported to market for slaughter and processing. For some products this will be a period of only a few days while other products may require a period of several weeks. And some medications will have no required pre-slaughter withdrawal period. The purpose of the pre-slaughter withdrawal is to make sure that the pig has cleared the medication from it's body before it is slaughtered and processed in to pork products. Following label instructions and keeping accurate treatment records is an important part of insuring that all pre-slaughter withdrawal times are met.

The National Pork Producers Council has educational materials that can be used to assist youth market hog producers in becoming certified in pork quality assurance. To obtain material for this program, participants can make requests through their local Cooperative Extension office, a swine veterinarian or to the National Pork Producers Council, P.O. Box 10383, Des Moines, Iowa 50306.

Nutrition and Feeding. Feed costs make up a major part of production costs in the market hog project. And feeding a nutritionally balanced diet is necessary for good pig performance and health. For these reasons a general understanding of swine nutrition is useful to those conducting the market hog project. Pigs are monogastric animals meaning that they have a simple digestive system with one stomach chamber. Unlike cattle, sheep and goats that have ruminant digestive systems and multiple stomach chambers, pigs cannot adequately digest feeds that have high fiber content such as hays, silages and pasture. Instead pigs require feeds consisting mostly of concentrate ingredients such as grains that are high in energy and oil seed meals that are high in protein.

The most frequently used grain in pig diet mixtures is ground corn. Corn is an excellent grain source because it is high in energy, low in fiber and is usually economical. Other grain sources that may be used in swine diet mixtures include grain sorghum (milo), wheat, barley, triticale and oats.

Soybean meal is the by-product that remains after oil has been extracted from soybeans at commercial soybean processing plants. Soybean meal contains about 44% to 48% protein and is the most commonly used protein supplement in pig diet mixtures. Actually pigs have specific requirements for amino acids that are the molecules that make up protein. Lysine is the most limiting (most needed) amino acid for pigs and soybean meal protein has an excellent balance of lysine and other required amino acids for pigs. Other potential pig diet protein supplements include canola meal, peanut meal, cottonseed meal and meat and bone meal.

In addition to energy and protein, pigs require in their diets sources of essential minerals and vitamins. Major minerals including calcium, phosphorus, sodium and chlorine are supplied by ingredients such as dicalcium phosphate (calcium and phosphorus), limestone (calcium) and salt (sodium and chloride). Minor minerals such as copper, zinc, iron, selenium, manganese and iodine are supplied by adding a trace mineral premix to the diet formulation. Vitamins added to pig diets include Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B12, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Niacin, Choline, Biotin, Folic Acid and Pyridoxine. These are supplied by including a vitamin premix in the diet formulation.

Components of a Complete Market Hog Feed

Dietary Need   Ingredients to Meet Dietary Need

Energygrains including corn, grain sorghum (milo), wheat, barley, triticale or oats (to increase feed energy, small amounts of fat may be added to complete feeds)

Protein and Amino Acidsoil seed meals such as soybean meal, canola meal, peanut meal or cottonseed meal (other sources include animal by-products such as meat meal or meat and bone meal)

Minerals (major)dicalcium phophate, monocalcium phosphate (calcium and phosphorus), limestone (calcium), salt (sodium and chloride)

Minerals (minor)trace mineral premixes

Vitaminsvitamin premixes

The most convenient way to obtain and provide feed for youth project pigs is to purchase a complete hog feed from a commercial feed mill or feed store. With a complete feed, no additional preparation or mixing is required. The feed should be formulated to meet the nutritional needs for the age and weight of the pigs. Complete feeds are available for purchase in bags which is most practical for projects involving a few hogs. For operations with a large number of hogs, bulk delivery of large loads may be feasible. Because most commercial mills are equipped with pellet mills, many commercial complete feeds are purchased in pellet form. An advantage of pelleted feed is that feed wastage by the pigs tends to be lower and feed-to-gain ratio is slightly better. However, with proper management, results can be nearly as good with ground feed fed in meal form.

Example Corn-Soybean Meal Feed Formulations for Market Hogs

Percent in Formulation

Grower Diet
 70 lbs. - 150 lb. Pigs 
Finisher Diet
 150 lbs. - 240 lb. Pigs 
Ground corn77.9083.15
Soybean meal (48% protein)19.5514.45
Limestone (Calcium carbonate).80.80
Dicalcium phosphate1.251.10
Vitamin premix.15.15
Trace mineral premix.10.10


Calculated nutrient & energy content:
   Crude protein, %1614
   Total lysine.80.65
   Calcium, %.65.60
  Phosphorus, %.55.50
   Met. Energy, kcal/lb.15071511

Another way to provide feed for project pigs is to obtain individual ingredients such as those shown in the previous table and prepare and mix a complete feed at the farm. This process can be complicated because it involves a variety of ingredients and labor intensive. Another option for on-farm feed preparation is to purchase a complete supplement. A complete supplement is a feed product that contains the necessary protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals to be mixed with ground grain in specified proportions to prepare a complete feed. This method of preparing feed on the farm is more simplified because it only involves two separate ingredients.


Exhibiting at a local or regional market hog show is a great way to conclude the youth market hog project. An added benefit is that most youth hog shows also offer the opportunity for exhibitors to sell their project pigs at the conclusion of the show. Exhibiting pigs involves driving the project hog in a show ring to display its best qualities to an official hog judge. And hog showmanship is quite different than showing other kinds of livestock because no halters or lead lines are involved. Instead a simple cane or whip is used to guide and direct the show pig around the show ring. Contrary to what some people believe, hog showmanship is not an undisciplined exercise in which youngsters drive pigs about in a show ring in random directions. The following are some points to focus on as youth exhibitors strive to improve their hog fitting and showmanship skills.

1). Begin training and preparing your pigs well ahead of the show. As you begin working with show pigs, your first goal is to get each pig familiar with you as a showman and the process of being driven as if in a show. Start out in the pen in which the pig is kept. If another pen is available, conduct periodic training sessions there too so the pig will become accustomed to new surroundings. The basic idea is to use a cane or show pig whip to guide and direct the pig in a calm and deliberate manner. To start the pig moving forward, stand toward the rear of the pig and to one side tapping it on its side. If the pig stops, tap it again but do not tap the pig constantly as long as it is moving as directed. To turn the pig to the right, tap it on the left side of the head. To turn it to the left, tap it on right side of the head. To stop the pig, hold the cane or show whip in front of the pig's snout. Work with show pigs frequently but keep each training session brief so that the pig does not become agitated. In the summer, conduct training sessions during the cooler periods of early morning or evening. Above all, do not lose patience during show training process. Try to make the experience stress-free for both the pig and the exhibitor.

2). Bring clean pigs to the show barn. By doing a good job pre-washing show pigs at home, it will be much easier to do light cleaning and washing at the show barn. For pigs kept in dirt lots or on heavy manure packs, it may take two or three washings starting several weeks before the show to get all the dirt and stains removed. Use mild detergent, warm water and a non-abrasive brush. Rinse the pigs well but take care not to get water into the pig's inner ear. Return the washed pigs to clean, dry quarters; provide clean dry bedding if temperatures are cold.

3). Organize and prepare equipment to take to the hog show. The exhibitor should plan on taking all the necessary feed and equipment to care for and exhibit the pigs at the show barn. Some exhibitors construct a wooden show box or modify an old foot-locker to carry their equipment and keep it neatly stored at the show. A partial checklist for items to bring to the show may include:

___ Watering pans and buckets
___ Feeding pans
___ Feed (only enough to last during the show)
___ Bedding (if not provided at the show)
___ Washing supplies (bucket, brushes, mild soap, clean rags, water spray bottle, etc.)
___ Shovel and broom (for cleaning around the pen area)
___ Work clothes and shoes
___ Show clothes and shoes
___ Show cane or hog show whip and small show brush (to fit in pants pocket while showing)
___ Other items as directed by the local show advisors

4). Plan on using the "natural look" when showing pigs in youth exhibitions. Complete body hair trimming close to the skin may be done in some major livestock shows but it really is not necessary (in fact it should be discouraged) in state and local youth shows. Some minor trimming with scissors to remove stray hairs along the face, ears, flanks and tail is certainly permitted and advisable. In the past some exhibitors have used mineral oil or talcum powder application to improve the appearance of show pigs. However, a comment often made by judges at youth hog shows is that mineral oil application and talcum powder are often used so excessively that it detracts from the appearance of the pig. A very small amount of mineral oil wiped on with a cloth will give a slight shine on colored pigs. Likewise a very small amount of talcum powder will brighten up white pigs. However, too much of either is worse than if none at all were applied.

5). Dress neatly and appropriately for the show. The clothes should be clean and neat. Slacks or clean jeans and a clean blouse or shirt is fine for both girls and boys. The shoes or boots should be a hard-soled type that will clean up easily. "Vibram" soled shoes are not advisable because manure tends to collect in the sole. A few youth shows even have a specific dress code for the show ring.

6). Equip yourself with a show cane or hog show whip (slapper type) and a small brush for the show ring. It is a personal choice on whether the cane or show whip is used. Both are intended to assist in gently driving and guiding your pig in the ring. Either tool should be easily held in one hand. A brush should definitely be carried into the ring but it should be a small brush that can easily be kept in one's pocket when not in use. If dirt or bedding gets on the pig during the showing process, the brush can be taken from the pocket and used to discretely brush away the unwanted material. A common mistake seen among young exhibitors is they attempt to show with a cane in one hand and a large brush in the other throughout the class. In some cases they may use the brush to guide and direct the pig but this can be distracting to the judge.

7). Know which class your pigs are in and be prompt when the class is called. The main mistakes to avoid here are being late into the ring when a class is called or even bringing the wrong pig into a class.

8). Remember your purpose: to give the judge the best look possible at your pig throughout the entire time that the class is in. Some exhibitors misinterpret this important point and attempt to move their pig directly to the judge each time he or she moves to a new location in the ring. Naturally the judge will move regularly during the class to get different views of the pigs. The exhibitor should be focused on the judge and respond accordingly when the judge changes position. But this does not usually mean moving the pig directly to the judge's new location. Rather it means that the exhibitor may need to turn the pig back into the range of view that the judge is currently taking. In fact it is preferred that the exhibitor attempt to show their pig at a distance of 15 to 25 feet from the judge to allow for good viewing from side, rear and front angles. Judges who want to get closer to or handle individual pigs will usually approach the pig and exhibitor. However, exhibitors not keenly focused on the judge may fail to recognize important opportunities to allow the judge to approach or give a better view of their pig when the judge changes position.

9). Use the show cane (or whip) skillfully and judiciously. The cane or whip is a tool to assist in driving, turning, stopping and otherwise controlling the show pig in the ring. However, inexperienced exhibitors often misuse it. The most common mistakes include frequently holding the cane between the pig and the judge, striking the pig along the back-line or in the hams causing the pig to assume awkward positions, striking the pig too frequently or too aggressively with the cane. Often this latter problem only serves to frustrate the pig to the point that it becomes impossible to show and can cause bruising of the live pig and discoloration on the carcass. Exhibitors skilled in the use of the show cane or whip tap the pig, usually gently, on the shoulder or jowl to encourage movement in a given direction. The pig is typically tapped on the right side to turn left and on the left side to turn right. A little extra force is sometimes used when needed but this is not taken to the extreme. The cane may be held in front of the pig's snout if there is an opportunity to stop the pig to allow a standing view for the judge. Additionally, experienced showmen can change the cane from the right hand to the left and from the left to the right as needed to effectively move the pig without distracting the judge.

10). The body position and movement of the exhibitor should be used to full advantage. The exhibitor should move along with the pig with their body positioned on the side away from the judge. When attempting to move the pig forward, it is best to be on the side but slightly toward the rear of the pig. A partially crouched position with the cane and free hand spread apart and below waist level will allow the pig to see the exhibitor, and hopefully will encourage the pig to be more responsive to the exhibitor. As much as possible the pig and exhibitor should be moving at a slow and deliberate pace. On occasions when the exhibitor stops the pig for viewing by the judge, the exhibitor can move discretely to a position directly behind the judge's view of the pig. In cases when the pig moves into a corner of the show ring, the exhibitor's best solution is to move along the ring fence and into the corner between the pig and the fence. This should encourage the pig to move away from the corner and back out into the open ring area. When it is necessary to move completely around the pig, the exhibitor should go around the pig in the direction that does not impede the judge's view of the pig. In fact the exhibitor should make a special effort to avoid obstructing the judge's view of the pig throughout the entire show class. It is not unusual for good swine exhibitors to perspire while showing because they are mentally and physically concentrated on exhibiting their pig during the entire time in the class. But they should also maintain a pleasant, sportsmanlike attitude and a keen awareness of the judge's position and viewing needs at all times. Work hard at it but have fun doing it.

11). Maintain high ethics and sportsmanship throughout the project and during the show. The overwhelming majority of young people and adults involved in youth livestock shows are ethical and honest. But there are occasional reports of participants who choose not to follow the rules. Those who choose to bend the rules of the project or show when participating really should not be participating. Likewise, adults who foster unethical behavior among youth livestock exhibitors in an effort to gain higher awards in a livestock show should find other ways to spend their time. Exhibitors who do their best with their project, who accept high placing graciously and accept lower placing honorably, will leave the show with a justifiable sense of pride and accomplishment.

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