She's the boss hog!
by By David Atchison
Beth is living high on the hog at the Maggard’s farm in Pell City.
When those in the know see her, they just go hog wild.

They know Beth has the look.

Beautiful big bluish gray eyes, a straight back, big bones, long narrow face cheeks, and oh, what a rear end!

And when you talk about personality plus, Beth has all that, and then some, to go with all of her other attributes, she’s just a big, delightful ham-it-up kind of girl.

It was Beth’s looks and dazzling Miss Piggy-like personality that recently earned her the top hog award when she took her turn down the pig-walk.

They now call Beth the “grand champion,” best-of-the-best ham this side of Dothan, and 17-year-old Chris Maggard said the prize-winning pig is the best he’s ever raised on the family’s 25-acre farm in Pell City.

Beth is a 7-month-old Hampshire pig. Her hair color is black and white, with a little more black on her “hams.”

“She is otherwise known as an Oreo-colored pig,” Chris said, while admiring his prize-winning hog.

Beth rooted, grunted and barked with excitement in the small enclosed barn, she looked like she was in hog heaven.

Her cute little tail wiggled 90 miles an hour in just about every direction.

Beth is just a bundle, a very big bundle of joy.

Every now and then the 200-pound beauty gives playful nudges and a few fun-loving leg nibbles to visitors.

Chris said pigs are like dogs, they have their own personality, and Beth certainly has a lot of personality – and a lot of ham!

She recently brought home the bacon after being crowned the Overall Prospect Hog Grand Champion during the National Peanut Festival in Dothan.

Chris and his adorable Hampshire hog beat more than 100 other competitors, hog and human, from Alabama, Florida and Georgia, who lined up at the trough for a try at the top pig prize, but nothing doing.

Chris, and of course Beth, were just too much for the competition as the two teamed up for the market and showmanship judging categories.

It’s taken a long time, a lot of work and a lot of learning and lessons for Chris - and Beth - to hog the top spot in the Future Farmers of America pig-showing circuit.

Chris started showing pigs about three years ago, in the ninth grade, through the Pell City High School FFA program. It was his agriculture teachers who encouraged him to start showing pigs.

“I never heard of showing pigs,” Chris said. “I heard of showing horses and dogs.”

So as a high school freshman, he decided to try his hand at pig showing competitions.

“The funny thing is when your teacher sees you’re out for a pig show,” Chris said.

But, he said, it requires good grades, at least a C in all classes, to participate in the FFA sponsored shows.

The pig showing venture has become a family affair, with his father Steve and his sister Cayce, 10, getting involved, especially his sister who participates in 4H pig showing competitions.

“If she continues, she’ll be a lot better than me,” Chris said.

Today, Chris and his family are hogging it up and now own five hogs on their farm.

Besides Beth, there’s Blue Eyes, a Blue Butt; Porkers, a Hampshire that was born in August; Ruby, an Alabama born and raised Red Belted Pig; and Skittles, an Alabama Blue Butt.

Chris said they buy special “showing” feed for their show pigs.

He said pigs are born in a litter, and a litter can have from 8 to 13 wee piglets.

Beth, who was born in early July, only weighed about 30-35 pounds when Chris bought her during Labor Day Weekend. Beth is now reaching the 200-pound mark.

“You sculpture your pigs through your feed,” he said.

Chris also grooms and bathes his pigs before heading to shows.

“You want to try and make the pig stand out as much as possible,” he said.

Chris said judges look at pigs and grade the different parts of their body.

He said a prize winning pig has a flat, long back, big bones, a deep gut, and good width to the hams or butt.

The pigs are normally shown from October to early February. Then off to the market they go in March or April.

The Maggards normally eat what they raise and when their pigs are harvested they weigh 350-400 pounds each.

“We always say, we like to know where our pork came from,” Cayce said.

Steve said the ham they raise tastes quite different from store bought ham.

Chris said their hogs have more flavor.

Cayce said her fellow students think she’s a bit crazy when they find out she raises and shows pigs.

“They also think I’m a little lucky, too,” Cayce said.

She said her Williams Intermediate School principal and teachers help, allowing her to participate in pig shows during the school year.

The brother and sister are not the only Pell City school system students to raise and show pigs.

Other students who show pigs include Cody Parks, who was selected as a Reserve Champion Senior Showman and Supreme Competitor at the Alabama National Fair in October.

Also, Lindsey Shoemaker placed second with her show pig at the Alabama National Fair in Montgomery.

Other Pell City students to participate in shows are Ryan Parks and Haley Ledlow.

“I participate in about 10-12 shows each year,” Chris said.

The Maggard family uses money won at shows to help buy and raise the next group of show pigs.

Steve said his children won about $1,250 last year, and the Maggard family pigs appear to be living high on the hog.

The family spends about $200 a week for feed for their five pigs.

Steve said it’s not a money-making venture, but more of a hobby, especially for his children’s small pig-raising venture.

Chris said it not only takes money, but a lot of time and work to raise show pigs.

Chris said it’s also easy to get attached to a pig you raise for show, which can make it difficult to market a hog like Reba, Ruby’s mother.

“We couldn’t eat her,” he said. “We sold her to a man for breeding.”

And as for Beth, the grand champion Hampshire gilt?

It’s too early to say if she will become a slab of bacon, but for now she’s making a big showing and building a big fan base.

© 2012