Handlers ham it up for judge

Market swine show brings out best in competition, teaches life skills

With visiting livestock judge Shawn Apt looking on, young handlers showed off their skills in spraying, grooming and showing their pigs in the Market Swine Judging and Swine Showmanship portion of the Moffat County Fair.

Thursday night's events at the Moffat County Fair, both Junior and Open categories, allowed participants to both compete and learn.

"These junior livestock shows are the most important event for these kids," said John Haddan, Future Farmers of America advisor and Agricultural Programs teacher at Moffat County High School. "The entire process of raising and feeding the animals teaches responsibility."

The Agricultural Education program at MCHS begins teaching at a broad level, with classes such as Ag I and II.

As the students progress through the program, they select more specific lessons, either animal science, ag business, ag mechanics, natural resources or horticulture.

"The participants are learning life skills [from being in the competition]," said MCHS's new FFA Advisor and Ag Program teacher Rick Murr. Murr recently graduated from the Master's Program at Oklahoma State University, and is "very excited" about getting started. "While raising the swine, they need to keep financial and feed record, production records. The whole process of getting ready for showing is educational."

With enrollment exceeding 100 students in the FFA and Ag programs, MCHS is welcoming Murr with open and needy arms.

"With over 110 students, we need another teacher to keep the program strong," Haddan said. "Mr. Murr brings a world of livestock experience, and will be a tremendous asset to the program.

At Thursday's show, Haddan and Murr were on board duty, helping to guide the swine to the judging ring and separating the swine when fights broke out.

Kristi Jurney, 12, is in her fourth year of competition and entered the show limit of two pigs. She took second and third place with each.

"I'm doing pretty well this year. It's a good show," Jurney said. "I'm just having fun, and looking forward to next year."

Jalen Hollenbeck, 8, is experiencing her first year in 4-H and in the County Fair.

She entered one pig, and took first place in Class 5. Hollenbeck was happy that she won, and excited to be going on to the Championship round.

For Dean Hollenbeck, father of Jalen and Jori, 15, who also competed, being the dad of participants is "nerve racking, but also a lot of fun."

"It's all about learning. This is the best experience for kids," he said. "Moffat County should be proud of this fair."

Jori took third place in her class, and Jalen went on to place third in the Championship round.

Market Swine are judged on the characteristics that make them appealing to the pork industry muscle definition, cutability, carcass orientation, length, levelness of design and overall structure.

Apt, this year's judge, is a former judge of collegiate competition, and now travels the country to judge at various shows.

Before making his determinations for the Championship round, Apt said he was "very impressed with this show. The competition was very deep, very, very good; a lot of the classes went five and six deep, and that's rare for county fairs," he said. "The kids were great to work with, and were a lot of fun. You should be very proud."

Apt selected John Counts, 18, as Grand Champion. This is Counts' final year in 4-H. Counts was pleased to take first place in the 250-pound class, and before the Championship round felt he "had a pretty good shot" at winning it all, which proved prophetic.

Reserve Grand Champion was awarded to Jessica Snowden, 11.

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