As small, docile, friendly, and easy to work with animals, Kunekune pigs make for an ideal choice for youth who are first interested in and learning about livestock keeping. It makes logical sense then, that these same youth, who may also be involved in 4-H or FFA programs would like to exhibit their animals at their county fairs or local youth shows.
Unfortunately, many youth who pursue projects with Kunekune or other heritage breed pigs in typical 4-H or FFA programs currently find themselves at a disadvantage because lots of well-intentioned people don’t know about these animals and how to integrate them into a more standard pig show, where competition against large commercial hogs seems all but impossible to imagine.
As someone who grew up in 4-H (and now works for a 4-H state office), and as a mom who also has a young daughter in 4-H wanting to exhibit her pigs, I have spent some time creating some guidelines and information for how your county or parish can integrate Kunekunes and other heritage breed pigs into their shows. Armed with these guidelines and this information, it is completely possible for youth to successfully exhibit their heritage breed pigs alongside commercial hogs in a youth program.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Before I provide the information, I first want to share several points, with regard to expectations and outcomes. After working with several counties in my state to help bring heritage pigs into 4-H programs I can say that the reception has varied widely. Below are several things I would advise to try to make the outcome as successful as possible. NOTE: I will be sharing experience from mostly a 4-H perspective here as that is my background.
Realize that every county/parish in every state is different. Your county program may be very different than the county next door. We are very fortunate to be in a county that is extremely receptive to trying new things so our personal experience was very successful. Working with other counties has been a much bigger challenge. 4-H and FFA programs are largely managed by volunteers so you will be working with people who have a wide variety of experiences and ideas about how fairs and projects and exhibitions should be run.
You will have to do a lot of educating. A lot of reluctance about working with heritage breed animals has to do with the fact that many people don’t know much about them, or only know some ‘stereotypes’. It will be up to you and your enthusiastic youth to help people learn more about the animals you want to show. From club leaders to county Educators to the general public, get ready to share share share.
Start with your county Educator or Agent. If your county has an Educator/Agent that specifically works with livestock, that would be the person to speak to first. Ask for a time to chat and bring the information provided here. It will also be helpful to know in advance how many youths would be interested in exhibiting heritage breed animals.
You may have to present the information more than once. If your Educator/Agent is supportive/interested, you may also need to share the information with a fair board, a show committee, or others who are actually planning the show. Youth involvement with sharing information (depending on ages) would be an excellent idea.
Be prepared for it to take some time. As with anything, bringing in something new or making a change can take time. It is possible that your program leaders could offer to allow your youth to exhibit their animals but not have them evaluated the first year, or other ideas may be suggested. You may also find a wide variety of results when bringing these pigs before a judge. A good 4-H judge should make sure that every youth has a positive show ring experience but this is unfortunately not always the case.
Remember that the core purpose of this is positive youth development, NOT winning a competition. This is a difficult one because we are talking about a show, where there are inevitably winners and losers. However, the point of ANY youth exhibition should NOT be the final outcome, it should be about finding successes in the process and ensuring that youth have a POSITIVE, CONFIDENCE BUILDING experience.
Ask for help! If you are having difficulty, please feel free to contact me. I cannot promise success but I’m happy to provide guidance if I can!
Judges should ideally question youth showing heritage breeds about their specific animal. It is also important that a youth judge prioritizes ensuring that every youth has a positive and confidence-building experience regardless of what kind of animal they are exhibiting.
Notes about the Guidelines
We recommend exhibiting commercial hogs and heritage breed hogs as separate divisions.
You CAN have a HERITAGE BREED MARKET DIVISION! Heritage breed market animals are exhibited by weight divisions, and appropriate weight ranges for each breed are determined by that breed registry (noted in the document below). Market animals are also permitted to be OLDER than commercial market hogs, usually 12-14 months of age, acknowledging the longer time they take to grow. Also, note that youth taking heritage breed market animals to a livestock auction will need to do extra work to educate their potential customers about the unique qualities of heritage breed pork.
Heritage breed Breed classes are divided by breed and age.
Each breed exhibited is evaluated against its OWN BREED STANDARD (also linked in the document). For Kunekunes we recommend using the EKPA Unified Scorecard . This scorecard includes the Kunekune breed standards but is formatted more closely to commercial hog score sheets, and is not specific to a single registry since there are two.
We recommend letting your judge know in advance that they will be evaluating Heritage Breeds and providing information about heritage breed standards if requested.
Showmanship classes can be combined between heritage breed exhibitors and standard exhibitors. Ideally, youth with heritage breeds should be questioned specifically about their breed of choice.
GOOD LUCK! In the near future, I hope to be able to bring some supporting curriculum along with this information so stay tuned!
EXHIBITION GUIDELINES DOWNLOAD
The Livestock Conservancy has good information on Heritage Breed pigs in general. The Empire Kunekune Pig Association is an organization that focuses on education about Kunekune Pigs and has some youth programming