Melanie Brubaker Mazur/Pine River Times
For many youth, the La Plata County Fair is the culmination of six months to a year of work in raising their animal, then offering it for sale at the livestock auction or after the fair.
For the Jenkins sisters of Bayfield, it’s a fun event, but only one of many in a year-round business they operate that raises prize-winning hogs.
Both Taylor Jenkins, 15, and Kori Jenkins, 12, have shown at the Colorado State Fair, as well as the Arizona National Livestock Show in Phoenix. This year, they’re showing at the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City, and in 2018, they’re planning their first trip to the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.
Clearly for the Jenkins family, raising hogs is an almost full-time affair while the girls attend school and the parents work full time.
“We’re not raising hogs, we’re raising kids,” mom Kari Jenkins said of the time the family spends working with the girls and their hogs. “This is what the kids like to do, and what we do as a family.”
Both girls say they like raising hogs because they’re intelligent and each animal has its own personalty.
“Each one is different,” said Kori. “They’re almost like people.”
Added Taylor: “You can’t lie with pigs.” And with no hair or wool to cover their hogs’ muscular bodies, “you can’t hide anything” during the judging process, either. “You get what you get.”
The girls are members of the Ignacio Westerneers 4-H Club, where Taylor serves as president and Kori is secretary. Taylor is also a member of Bayfield High School’s new Future Farmers of America chapter, which was founded last year. Kori attends Bayfield Middle School.
They raise mostly cross-breeds of hogs, as well as pure-bred Durocs and Berkshires, although Taylor likes the Yorkshire breed.
“They’re quick, and they like to run around,” she said of her Yorkshires. “They have good personalities.”
For the past three years, one or both of the girls has qualified for the auction at the Colorado State Fair, where 750 hogs are judged, and only 35 make it to the sale, making it one of the toughest competitions they have, explained their dad, Judd Jenkins. Taylor’s Yorkshire took third overall in the breed last year.
The girls save a couple of hundred bucks from each sale, and Taylor hopes to work in ag after she graduates. Like many 4-H and FFA kids, they’re saving their livestock earnings for college.
They appreciate the county fair because honestly, it’s not quite as intense as some of the other events they have during the year, and they know most of the other youth and many of the observers. Whatever animals they don’t sell at the auction, they’ll take to the state fair.
The La Plata County Fair also is one of the most lucrative in the state, with many youth getting top dollar for their animals from local businesses, especially when oil and gas prices are up, Kari Jenkins explained.
The girls tend to their hogs twice a day, every day, starting at 5:45 a.m.
Showing a hog is called “driving,” the girls explained as they started their afternoon session with their pigs. When there are a whole bunch of other kids and hogs in a ring jostling for position to be in front of a judge, “that’s defensive driving,” Taylor joked.
Most of their hogs are young, so they’re referred to as barrows (castrated males) and gilts (females), as compared to the more mature sows and boars.
One of Kori’s favorite hogs she’s showing this year is a young gilt. She raised the animal’s mother, as well.
This week is busy at the fair. On Monday, they set up their pens and have interviews with judges.
Animals have to be at the fair by Wednesday, when the youth show their animals. Judging is on Thursday, and the livestock auction, one of the highlights of the annual event, is Saturday night.
Taylor’s schedule is relatively lighter this year because she decided not to show a steer or heifer, as she has in the past.
While their parents admit the schedule is hectic, it’s worth it for their girls.
“This is what they do,” Judd Jenkins said. “It teaches responsibility and hard work.”
The girls also have developed confidence, business acumen, and can talk easily with adults after years of dealing with livestock judges, Kari Jenkins added.
Are they sad when it’s time to load their hogs up for a buyer, or send it to slaughter?
It’s heartbreaking, Taylor said, “but it’s also a new chapter in your show life. It’s worth it.”
Melanie Brubaker Mazur/ Pine River Times