For the second consecutive year, the Delaware County Junior Fair’s Overall Grand Champion Market Hog was shown by Brodie Wheeler.
Wheeler, a member of the Kountry Kids 4-H Club and now a sophomore at Big Walnut High School, took home the top honor after showing a 275-pound gilt.
“It feels great,” Wheeler told The Gazette. “It’s fun. I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s been a great last two years. I hope I can make it three years next year.”
Last year’s triumph was the first for Wheeler after showing the overall reserve grand champion three times prior. Having established a proven formula for success, Wheeler said he tried to replicate the things that helped him to be successful last year while also aiming to improve his skills regarding feeding, hair growth, and general work with the pig.
“I just tried to do a repeat, and I did. I’m very thankful for that,” he said.
While Wheeler focused on building upon last year’s success, the preparation for this year’s show featured challenges unlike anything he’d ever faced in his showing career and unlike anything he’ll likely ever face again. In March, a fallen heating lamp ignited the shavings and wood in the pig’s pen, leading to severe burns on the pig’s backside.
The burns and smoke-related respiratory damage created considerable doubt about whether the pig would even survive, much less be ready to be shown.
“The first three months were very hard with trying to keep her alive, make her feel comfortable, and treat her skin to make sure she didn’t get an infection while trying to heal as fast as possible so we could get out to the ring and show,” Wheeler said.
Given the long road he, his family, and the pig had to travel to get to the show ring, Wheeler said it made the win all the more special.
“I think it was more the bond we made with that pig given the work that was behind it to get to that point,” he said. “For her to still look as good as she did after that fire, it was way more rewarding and more of an enjoyable aspect for myself, parents, and sister.”
He added, “It could not even be possible without the work my mom, dad, and sister did along with myself. We were out every night spending probably an hour with her just to make sure she would get through to the next day.”
Wheeler said the judge was aware of the obstacles the pig had to overcome to get to the show ring and even remarked that he wished he could have seen the pig without the scars. Despite the blemishes, Wheeler felt the overall look and build of the pig ultimately allowed her to be named the overall grand champion.
“She had really good bones,” Wheeler said of the gilt. “She was a shorter-bodied gilt. She had a big back because she never came off feed; she was always eating. She was generally just a good hog between her build and structure. The scars grew over her legs, which caused a little deformation and probably made her hock look a little weird. But her feet stayed square. She drove with consistency, and her look was just really good, in my opinion.”
Asked how his ring skills helped to showcase the hog, Wheeler said it’s important to make long passes to ensure the judge can see all angles of the hog, as well as to get the hog to drive at a consistent pace rather than sprinting or standing around.
As for what he’s learned through the trying process and what his advice would be to anyone striving to show a champion, Wheeler said it ultimately boils down to commitment.
“Never give up, even when you feel like you’re at the lowest point of your career with that pig,” he said. “You can always bounce back and make a difference. You could be dead last in your class and go to next year’s show and win. It’s your dedication, perseverance, and your work ethic. If you put in the work, you will see some results that are in line with what you want.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.