This hasn't been the most profitable spring for what has become a cottage industry within agriculture in Indiana and elsewhere- producing and selling pigs to 4-H'ers hungry to 'bring home the bacon' along with purple banners and trophies at county and state fairs. Anecodtal reports from producers inside the industry note that some sales have held their own, with top-quality pigs bringing typical high prices, while other sales have been rather dismal for people consigning pigs to them.
While paying anywhere from $150 to $3,000 for a barrow that may be worth well under $100 on the market this summer has never made economic sense, it's a practice that has become standard operating procedure for many 4-H'ers and their parents who want to be competitive in various 4-H and open hog shows. Similar trends have followed in the club calf and sheep business.
Some speculate less than stellar prices this year, especially at some other sales featuring consigned pigs from major player sin the business from all over the country, may signify that 4-H'ers and their families are determining it makes more sense to buy pigs form someone closer to home that they know. In case of problems, that person is more likely to work with the 4-H'er to rectify whatever might be wrong.
Obviously, 4-H'ers and their parents aren't ignoring high feed prices either. With feed pushing $20 for 50 pounds of the premium brands, plus sky-high prices for special additives that most show-fitters feel are necessary as the show approaches, input costs are high. Perhaps many who didn't mind buying an extra pig or two in the past to have it in the line-up are content with fewer numbers this year, since every added pig means another mouth to feed with expensive feed.
While it's not documented, higher fuel prices could also be keeping some potential buyers from traveling to sales further from their farm or home. It may cause them to look harder at local buying options. Prices for diesel surpassed $4 per gallon at some locations recently, and gasoline nudged toward the $4 mark.
There are still plenty of stories about high-priced pigs floating through the country, a $2,900 gilt here and a $7,400 gilt there. But the glitter seems to be off the 4-H pig sales in general, at least for this year in comparison to past years.
As one 4-H pig producer recently commented, "Unless they're very good, if you've got 4-H pigs to sell, you had better be selling them soon."