Lily Ahern has taught her pigs to sit.
The 13-year-old member of the Pitt River 4-H Swine Club started teaching the five-month-old landrace duroc cross pigs the first week she brought them to the barn at the far end of her aunt and uncle’s property. But it was Francois who picked up the skill first.
“Francois can sit on demand,” Lily said, but Howard is still the smarter pig.
“Howard thinks ahead,” she added, and waits for food.
“I just thought it would be super cute. The pigs were all sitting there when we bought them. I thought it would be really cute for the fairs,” she said of teaching them to sit.
This is the second year in 4-H Lily and the first year she has worked with pigs. Last year it was dogs.
Her love of animals, especially farm animals, and her aunt’s offer of space in the backyard, prompted Lily to switch to pigs.
“Pigs are easier to start with. They have the lowest time commitment,” she said.
“With beef and dairy, there is a lot of training involved. There is also a lot of prepping for shows where you have to trim and clip them, “ added Lily, who’s busy with other activities.
Lily is going to be showing Howard this weekend at the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Country Fest at the Albion Fairgrounds.
Despite Francois’ sitting capabilities, he is still only Howard’s companion pig, Lily said, explaining that pigs are social animals and need a companion.
All six members of the Pitt River 4-H Swine Club will be showing one pig, and three of them will be showing a second, all landrace duroc crosses.
“The landrace pig is just a really good meat provider. It is just a really good, nice long looking pig,” said Gina Spencer, leader of the Pitt River 4-H Swine Club.
Spencer said there will be 40 pigs competing in two categories from 4-H clubs as far away as Vancouver Island.
The first category is showmanship, which is about the 4-H member and how well they have raised the animal and taken care of it.
They will be judged on how well they can control the animal and how clean the animal is. The second category is the market category, which is all about the animal and if it will be a good provider of meat. The animals will be judges on length, the back legs or hams and the belly for bacon.
“Basically, they are looking for the ideal perfect pig. Not too fatty, not too skinny,” said Spencer.
The 4-H members get their pigs when they are eight weeks old and spend the next four months with them.
During the four months members keep a record of what their feed expenses are, how much they are feeding the animal and what the growth rate is. By the end of the project, they need to figure out what their total expenses were and if they made a loss or a profit.
Then at six months the pigs are auctioned off for the butcher at the final agricultural fair of the season, the Pacific National Exhibition.
But, this is part of the learning process for the 4-H members. Lily loves her pigs, Spencer said, but she is aware of what is going to happen.
“We raise these pigs for their purpose. We provide a clean safe stress-free environment for these animals. We give them the happiest lives and we love all of them and they provide us with the best meat possible,” Spencer added.
“We know what we have fed them and how we’ve raised them and now we know what we’re eating.”
The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Country Fest is a free annual fair showcasing the importance of agriculture in the community.
Clubs from across the province will be competing, including beef, dairy, llama, sheep, goat, dog, poultry, swine and rabbit clubs.
The fair started in 1901 with the formation of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Agricultural Association and is held annually in July.
There will be home arts and gardening, spinning, weaving, quilting and rug hooking demonstrations, a ‘Fun Til You’re Done Farm’, a Country Corner Vintage Market, a mobile dairy classroom, horse jumping pig and duck races, rabbit agility, horse shoeing and sheep dog demonstrations and Johanna Walker will be showing off her sheep shearing skills.
There will be live entertainment on two stages, with The Boss headlining on the Canadian Heritage Stage at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
The fair runs July 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Albion Fairgrounds, 23448 – 105th Avenue in Maple Ridge. The fair is free with daily parking available for $2.
The 4-H clubs are open to all individuals aged nine to 19.
Although the club is agricultural based there are non-agricultural areas like photography and sewing to participate in.
“The 4-H Club does a lot of individual building up of confidence. They do a lot of public speaking, speeches and educational displays that will also be at the fair as well,” said Spencer.
• Anyone wishing to join the Pitt River 4-H Swine Club should look for them in the swine barn at Country Fest. They always decorate their area so they won’t be hard to find.
For more information about the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Country Fest, go to http://www.mrpmcountryfest.com.