While holding a stick, Colton Neal concentrated on his pig as it walked around the show ring.
Nearby judges observed his relationship with the hog as he steered it in several directions. It’s something he loves to do.
“I get to show pigs,” Colton said. “I have to walk them a lot and practice, so they’ll be good.”
As a result, the 9-year-old youth from Roseboro received sixth place in novice showmanship at the Sampson Swine Show at the livestock arena. The Tuesday event, hosted by Sampson County Cooperative Extension was the final for the North Carolina Swine Show Circuit. It began in the Albemarle area on Sept.2. Shows in Edgecombe, Duplin, Wilson and Wayne counties followed.
For Colton and other participants, the work involve a lot of preparation of walking the pig around the home. His brother Landon Neal, 11, was fourth in the junior division with his pig, “Squealer.”
“I think it’s fun and it’s hard to work with this pig because she squeals so much,” Landon said with a little humor. “When they cooperate it’s not that hard, but when they don’t it tends to make you sweat a lot.”
Their father, Patrick Neal said showmanship competitions show participants the value of hard work.
“They practice at home and they get to come to the show,” Patrick said. “It’s kind of like payday with all the practice. They get to put it to work and see if it pays off.”
Max Knowles, extension agent for agriculture — livestock, expressed how the students are committed to their work with the animals.
“It’s testament to how committed these kids are to learning responsibility,” Knowles said. “It’s a great bonding experience from them taking care of their animals.”
Knowles added that it shows a great industry and showed gratitude for parents who take their children to competitions. Tuesday’s event was sponsored by supporters such as Smithfield Foods, Prestage Farms, the North Carolina Pork Council and the National Pork Producers Council.
“They’re supporting agriculture and they’re supporting these kids,” he said about the appreciation.
Eileen Coite, Sampson County Extension Director, was pleased with a turnout of about 40 participants. About 14 counties are involved with the circuit and traveled to Sampson County to participate.
“They’re very committed to what they do,” she said while assisting with the sixth show. They worked very hard and we’ll see them again at the state fair.”
In the senior division (ages 14-18) the top exhibitors were Ben Scott, Mary-Catherine Mayo and Taylor Glover. For the junior group (ages 9-13), the top presenters were Sarah Scott, Connor Kennedy and Logan Ballance. The leaders in the novice group (ages 5-8) were Caleb Neal, Evan Mayo and Ella Twitty.
A grand champion hog was showed by Caleb and the reserve champion hog was presented by Landon.
Participants will receive their overall awards at the 2017 North Carolina State Fair, scheduled for Oct. 12 through Oct. 22 in Raleigh.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.