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HEATH SPRINGS – Twenty years from now, Tucker and Thomas Adams are going to be old hands at farming.
After raising 25 chickens last summer, the brothers have been raising two pigs as part of a 4-H market pig project.
And under their watchful eyes and attention for the last four months, those two pigs – 13 and 35 – have grown from about 65 pounds each to almost 250 pounds.
Tucker, 9, is a third-grader at Heath Springs Elementary School, and Thomas, 10, is a fourth-grader. They have been in 4-H for two years.
“We named one Porky and one Pork Chop, but they wouldn’t come,” Tucker said. “But they had tag numbers, so we started calling them by that.”
Raising the pigs hasn’t been an easy task. There’s the feeding, the watering, buying feed and keeping the porkers in a warm and dry environment as much as possible in a 16-by-16 foot pen at their Rob Neal Road home.
“It’s a lot of work. We’ve been lucky because our dad (James Adams) has kept the hay dry and done the shoveling,” Thomas said.
“Most keep their pigs on wood or cement, but we’ve been keeping them on dirt,” said their mom, Tonya Adams. “This has been a learning experience for all of us. We are proud of both of them. Between school, baseball, basketball and soccer, they have a lot going on, but they have really stuck with it.”
Lancaster County 4-H Agent Ashley Hinson said the market pig project provides youth the opportunity to learn about swine production and develop responsibility.
That, Hinson said, translates into life skills that reap benefits later.
“Tucker and Thomas have really learned a lot,” Hinson said.
The boys had to solicit sponsorship to help pay for expenses, including the almost 100 pounds of 16 percent hog pellets and hog meal the pigs now eat every week. The food bill has been growing right along with 13 and 35.
“They love it,” Tucker shouted. “They like to eat and drink out of the hose pipe.
“They’ll be laying on the ground with their heads stuck in the feeders.”
Don’t mistake Tucker’s glee for wanting to turn 13 and 35 into family pets. While the boys have five chickens and three dogs, they are about to be pigless.
On April 11, 13 and 35 will be sold at the Chester Livestock Exchange during the annual York County 4-H livestock sale.
And they will probably be bought by a meat processor.
“That’s a fact of life,” Hinson said. “Not every 4-H project ends up as a back yard pet.”
Thomas doesn’t have a problem with that.
“If you wanna be a farmer, you gotta sell something,” he said. “If you don’t, how else are you gonna make a living?”
However, before 13 and 35 are sold that day, the boys must put them through their paces in a showmanship competition.
The boys have learned to guide the pigs with a curved end of a cane and how to gently drive them forward behind their front flank and sides to keep them moving.
Hitting the pigs on the back, rump or snout is a no-no in the judging.
The pigs must stay between them and the judges at all times, and at least 10 to 15 feet from the judges, which is no easy task.
That, Tucker said, can get you tuckered out.
“The hard part is getting them to go where you want them to go,” he said. “They keep wanting to get inside the house.”
The boys plan to use proceeds from the sale for another 4-H market project, possibly sheep.
A best of show prize on April 11 would go a long way toward those upcoming expenses.
They’ve already started their own egg business to help defray the cost.
Thomas hopes to be a small farmer like the boys’ uncle, Kevin Hudson, who raises cows, goats, alpacas and chickens.
Until then, Thomas said he plans to learn as much about farming through 4-H as he can.
“About 20 acres should do it,” Thomas said.
“That gives you enough land for pastures, crops, a home and a barn.”
Bet your didn’t know...
– Diabetics use insulin from the pancreas of pigs to help them manage their blood glucose levels.
– A female pig is called a glit. After she has a litter, she’s called a sow.
– The largest pig recorded in history was “Big Bill,” a 5-foot-tall, 9-foot-long Poland China hog which tipped the scales at 2,552 in 1993.
– Scientist believe pigs are one of the most intelligent animals, ranking close behind apes and dolphins.
– The word barbecue comes from the French, who called the Caribbean pork feasts, “de barbe et que,” which means “from beard to tail.
– By 1863, Cincinnati, Ohio, was such a major pork processing center that it was widely known as “Porkapolis.”
– Pigs don’t have to be rounded up; a good yell will bring them running.
– A pig’s squeal can reach up to 115 decibels, which is 3 decibels higher than the sound of the supersonic Concorde.
– An average pig eats 5 pounds of food a day, or a ton of food every year.
– The average American eats 51 pounds of pork each year.