Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ojaians Hoping To 'Fair' Well

Amy Duncan of the Mira Monte 4-H club prepares her hog for a fair showing with a feeding of goat milk. The Mira Monte 4-H group is entering 32 hogs in the Ventura County Fair, which opens today at the Ventura Fairgrounds.

By Sondra Murphy

For many people, the Ventura County Fair is more than just carnival rides and funnel cakes. The livestock buildings attract both sightseers and buyers wanting to look at the animals.
Two families in the Mira Monte 4-H Club have pooled their efforts to raise four fair pigs. The Duncan family lives on half an acre and shares space with Erika and Kayla Mandell. Besides care, feeding and cleaning, club members have to keep careful documents on their porcine projects.
“We got the pigs in Somis on April 21, 2007,” said mother and record-keeper Lisa Duncan. “They’re real sweet little animals and like to be around people.” The pigs weighed about 50 pounds at pickup and now range in weights between 230 and 250 pounds. “Each family gets a week of duty,” she said. The pig area of the property takes a lot of water to help the pigs stay cool in the summertime heat. “The pigs have made a big, giant mud hole,” Duncan said.
Caring for swine involves frequent monitoring. “They have three feeders, which means I don’t have to go out and feed them every day. They can feed whenever they want to, which is all the time,” said Sean Duncan, a freshman at Villanova, This is the second year he has been involved with a 4-H project. The young farmers put on their rubber boots to clean the pig pens and usually use a pooper-scooper to eliminate the waste materials and add clean wood shavings for warmth at night.
After checking the feeders and making sure to give the pigs fresh water, “I play with them and walk them around the cage to keep them in shape.” The pigs’ diet consists of pellets, fruit from the Duncans’ plum and apricot trees, scraps and goat’s milk. “Every month we de-worm them so they don’t get sick,” he added.
“My pig is a Hampshire,” Sean Duncan said. “He likes goat’s milk and it helps make him grow. I’ve also heard it makes the meat taste better. I’m told he has the nicest butt, or hams,” he said.
Fifth-grader Amy Duncan is raising a Yorkshire for her first 4-H project. “They like to blow bubbles in their mud holes,” she said. “When we first got the pigs, the biggest female knocked me down, so you learn how to walk with them,” she said. “We use PVC pipe and tap them to get them to go where you want.”
Getting the pigs to cooperate in the judging ring is crucial for maximum investment return. “They like to lay down when you’re walking them. They like you to rub their bellies.” Amy Duncan said that the pigs seem to like leftover bread the best, “But they’re not too big on zucchini.”
The families plan to take the pigs to the fair on Monday. In the meantime, they have more work to do. “We are practicing luring them into a trailer because they’re not used to it,” said Sean Duncan. “When they stress out, they lose pounds.”
Since livestock is sold by the pound, top weight is an important element to maintain.
After the trailer ride to the fair, they will place two pigs per pen and be watchful of potential buyers. “Every day you have to scoop out all the junk and waste products, then get a new bag of shavings and stay to talk to people walking by,” Sean Duncan said. “Last year, I just met someone who ended up buying my pig.”
The Ventura County Fair, “An Old-Fashioned Fair” starts today and runs through Aug. 12. Admission tickets and presale carnival ride tickets and wrist bands may be purchased online at venturacountyfair.org.
The many events and choices in entertainment may also be viewed at that web site.
For more information, call 648-3376.

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