By Jess Barncastle, 2010 Pork Mentor
I’ve had many unique and educational experiences in the pork industry. However, I am not done learning yet! Searching on the Internet, I came across an ad for “Gerlach Show Pigs, Brokerage and Commodities.” Show pigs? I had always wondered how people ended up in the show livestock industry. I also thought about possibly providing show stock for FFA and 4-H members someday in my future. I knew this was going to be a great learning opportunity for me!
After slowly making my way out to Clatonia, Neb., and almost getting lost twice, I ended up at the Gerlach’s house. When I had walked in, the first thing I had noticed was the numerous screens around the office, covered with information about the current commodity prices of livestock and crops. I sat down and pulled out my question sheet and I asked Rick, “How did you get started in the show hog industry?” I learned that he had worked with hogs his whole life. Once he had graduated school, he had a small commercial hog operation that, due to the economy, wasn’t working out for his small operation like he had hoped. So, he kept what he felt was the best 14 sows out of his herd of 1000 sows and started a breeding operation.
He has about 200 head of hogs on the property at a given time, with 70 of those being his breeding stock. He keeps two boars on his property for the sole purpose of heat checking the sows, but otherwise he uses artificial insemination to breed. The breeds he works with were mostly Yorkshire and Duroc with some spotted breeds and composite breeds mixed in.
I also learned about the nutrition regiment he had his hogs on. The sows were on shelled corn and sow cubes. The piglets diet is supplemented with milk replacer shortly after birth. Once the hogs were being fitted and prepared for showing, they were put on Showmaster feed.
His property has three dry lots housing pigs, a nursery barn housing about 100 piglets, and one farrowing house with 20 sows inside. He also has a small sale barn where he would conduct the spring sale. The spring sale is to take place in April and May with hopes of selling all of his nursery piglets. Check it out for yourself! http://gerlachshowpig.com/
I also learned that Rick used to sell show hogs to FFA advisors and chapters and 4-H clubs that I knew in Arizona. He used to go down to the Phoenix area every Thanksgiving to sell hogs to chapters. More recently, he has been going to Utah to sell his hogs. He also lends his hogs for use in judging clinics and for several collegiate judging teams to do their judging workouts. Among those schools were Eastern Wyoming College, Southeast Community College, Colby Kansas Community College, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
He annually takes his hogs to the National Western Stock Show in Denver, the Sioux Empire in Sioux Falls, and the American Royal in Kansas City as well as some smaller shows around Nebraska, counting County Fairs. But, Rick says he really enjoys traveling with the hogs and his kids to shows and watching them compete.
This job shadow was a really great experience for me as it showed me one way to get started in the industry. I had a great time looking at his show stock and watching how his lines of winners were produced. I know I will be taking some of the information I learned from this shadow and using it to help make me successful!