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Pork producers rally to reverse the decline in 4-H swine projects through a unique Nebraska program.

March 16, 2023

3 Min Read
Trampas Carr exhibits his show pig at the local fair along with other winners
GET SHOWING: Trampas Carr (third from left) exhibits his show pig at the local fair. Carr took part in Nebraska’s Pig Lottery Program. In Lincoln County, he earned the Overall Champion Lottery Pig in 2022. Courtesy of UNL

by Elizabeth Hodges

With swine projects on the decline in Nebraska’s Logan and Lincoln counties, 4-H families knew that they needed to make a change to keep these numbers up. So, they set up a Pig Lottery Program to offer youth who live on or off the farm a chance to get started in the swine industry.

“This idea came from swine parents who saw the hog show decreasing in size,” says Randy Saner, Nebraska Extension educator for Lincoln-Logan-McPherson counties. “The push was to make sure that there was still an interest in the swine project.”

How it works

For 4-H members who have not grown up around the livestock industry, it can be difficult to know where to start and where to go in terms of starting a livestock project, not to mention the expenses associated with the project.

The Pig Lottery Program gives youth a chance to raise pigs and learn about the industry by connecting members to a Nebraska swine producer. Youth sign up for the lottery and put down a deposit. At weigh-in, they enter the drawing and pick their pig according to when their name is drawn.

Throughout the year, youth learn about how to care for the animal through support of comprehensive meetings. Youth must attend at least two of the three meetings. First, they learn about herd health and stress, along with biosecurity. In the second session, participants talk about their swine projects and ask questions about their projects.

“Last year, some of our pigs were light [in weight],” Saner says. “So, this year we are going to focus more on how to feed the pigs more efficiently to make sure they are market ready by fair time.”

The final topic is more hands-on, to learn how to properly show the pig through showmanship training. All the sessions culminate in a winner for the program.

The Pig Lottery Program offers awards for top average daily gain, a showmanship and placing in the live show. The winner of the live show then competes against the hogs in the market division.

“The overall winner of the Pig Lottery Program will be determined through a point system that tracks how well each participant performed in each category,” Saner says.

Swine community works together

This is not the first program like this in Nebraska.

Saner says the Logan and Lincoln County program is like the one in Saline County. He continues to receive calls from other counties wanting to know more about the pig lottery. They want to know how their county can manage the program, he says, with many interested in starting their own programs.

The swine industry support needed to put on one of these programs is impressive.

It all starts with involvement from the swine parents who see the need for this type of program to boost swine project numbers. Then the swine superintendent puts in the work to source pigs from producers. And finally, there is educational programming to teach youth how to properly raise their pig.

With increased interest in the project this year, Saner is looking forward to seeing where this Pig Lottery Program can go and how these learning experiences affect 4-H youth.

Learn more by contacting Saner at [email protected].

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