Mason Pape, 15, returned to his FFA show team’s row of pens in the Swine Barn with a white ribbon and a smile Thursday.
His 7-month-old market-ready Berkshire pig had just taken third in its class in the Fort Worth Stock Show’s junior barrow division, capping off the long morning with a win.
Mason, a sophomore, and his brother Will Pape, 16, a junior, got up at 4:30 a.m. at their home near Justin and stopped by Northwest High School to feed their other FFA project animals before heading to Fort Worth.
They arrived at the Will Rogers complex at about 5:45 a.m. to prep for the show.
It takes time to make a pig presentable, Mason said. He ran through the steps that every pig exhibitor knows well.
“We took them to the wash rack and gave them a bath,” a 10-minute process. It’s basically wetting them down and getting the mud off. The pigs’ hair has already been clipped to three-eighths of an inch.
Next comes the weigh-in. The target weight is 262 pounds, with a 10-pound margin either way. Mason’s barrow — the term for a young castrated pig — came in at 267.
“Next, I fed him and gave him some electrolytes,” he said. “It’s a market show, so you want to show good muscle.”
Then the pig is brushed off, “and then you hurry up and wait,” Mason said. His show time was early, about 8:45 a.m.
Mason’s pig made the initial cut of 10, and the second cut for the top five. Then he took third place.
“He looked good, had plenty of muscle, was shined up,” said Mason, who has three more show pigs at home, destined for stock shows in San Antonio, Houston and Austin.
At showing, pigs can only have a sheen from water, he said, but while they are being raised, they are lavished with special hair and skin conditioners with names like Sudden Impact and Revive. There are boxes of soaps, other dressings and brushes that make up a pig’s beauty regimen.
If any of those show up at judges’ inspection, it’s an automatic disqualification.
Will Pate showed a brown Duroc pig Thursday afternoon.
“The challenge is just a lot of time and effort, getting them broke,” Will said. (“Broke” means trained to walk alongside the student during the show, with the student using a slender flexible stick to keep the animal in line.) “That’s all our summer was, working with our animals.”
The brothers also showed goats this year at the Stock Show, and after four years of exhibiting, both say they prefer pigs. They are also working on an agricultural mechanics project, a goat feeder, for another show
“I probably enjoy most, just being with family and meeting new people, making connections,” Will said of the Stock Show experience. He plans to be an agriculture teacher and study at Tarleton State University in Stephenville after high school graduation.
Northwest’s team included 10 exhibitors, from elementary-age to high school students.
Last year, Brooklyn Whitton’s pretty Hampshire show pig had a pretty disgusting name: Stink.
The 9-year-old exhibitor from Prairie View Elementary in Rhome didn’t name her pig this year, possibly because she finds “getting rid of him” at the end of the project so difficult.
“That’s probably the hardest part for most kids here,” her mother, Lacy Whitton, said.
Brooklyn does like spending time with animals, though. In addition to her project pig, the Whitton family has three dogs, three chickens, three steers, three pigs and “I don’t know how many goats,” she said.
Lacy Whitton said Brooklyn is the youngest of her three children, all of whom have shown animals at the Stock Show.
“The parents’ job is making sure they take responsibility for feeding, washing, everything that goes into the daily schedule,” she said.