tar S g n i Alexandra Ely
It’s a Family Affair! Raising and showing pigs is truly a family effort. My grandma, Uncle Christopher and Aunt Lori manage the sow herd daily. It takes the entire team during farrowing season, and I can’t remember how many nights I have spent in the farrowing barn delivering pigs, even pulling them myself when necessary. This teamwork continues through the show season. My mom didn’t grow up around livestock, but has quickly learned about pigs and makes sure that we get to the barn every day after school to work with our pigs, feed and clean pens. Shows are a team effort as well and can be quite hectic given the number of pigs we show. At the end of the day, it takes all of us working together as a unit to be successful; I love my family for all their help and support! My first showing experience: The earliest show experience
Alexandra Ely is a thirteen year old from Sisterdale, TX. She is the daughter of Chuck and Toni Ely and big sister for Zoe. Starting this Fall she will be attending Comfort High and is extremely active in the Comfort / Kendall County 4-H programs. Alexandra has a deep passion for agriculture, especially swine, her family, and her community. Here is her story of raising and showing swine, experiences along the way and the people who have assisted! I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers that have depended on agriculture for their way of life. While my grandparents, great grandparents and those before them raised livestock for food, showing at livestock shows also goes a long way back in my family. My dad and uncle, Christopher Hohmann, raised and showed pigs when they were in school. My great uncle, David Spenrath, has always had a successful herd of show pigs, as his kids and many nieces and nephews, including my dad and uncle, often showed pigs from his farm. My dad also had a couple of sows as he was growing up, as did my uncle. When I was old enough I started showing pigs and Angora goats, which was about seven years ago. Some of my first show pigs were gilts. This is when my dad and uncle decided to start raising show pigs, instead of hauling the gilts to market or putting them in the freezer. Thus, C-C Show Pigs was born and quickly became our family affair of raising and showing swine. Over the years, we have been blessed with a very successful show pig operation; now breeding about 20 females. We currently raise Chester Whites, Yorkshires, Hampshires, Berkshires and Crosses through the full production cycle. In addition to pigs, we also raise and show Angora goats. At one time, we had as many as 25 nannies but have scaled back to about 10 due to the growth of our show pig operation.
that I remember was at our local Comfort FFA livestock show my first year. That year I took breeding gilts, barrows and a whole herd of Angora goats to the show. I remember the chaos of the shows, trying to get animals ready and to and from the show ring. There were lots of older showman, more skilled than me, and I was very nervous and intimidated. I remember doing well, and as we were loading up our tack, the ag teacher came over and asked us to stay until the show was over. We weren’t sure why, but later learned that they had an overall high point award and I had won it in my first year! That was such a confidence builder for me, and a great start to my competitive showing career.
My Favorite Show: SAN ANGELO! Since I show both gilts and barrows, the San Angelo Livestock Show becomes a week-long family vacation for us. My Uncle Christopher and Aunt Lori often travel there with us, along with other cousins who raise and show pigs; we really enjoy the family time together there. Another reason I like that show so much is the opportunity to show in both the Certified Texas Bred Gilt show as well as the Junior Breeding show. With two different judges on the same day and with the same pigs, it is often interesting to see how the placings can differ. The weather can also be fun, as I have seen everything from super hot to cold and snow! Finally, the staff in San Angelo is very helpful and understanding. One of my most memorable experiences was in San Angelo at the 2012 CTBR Texas Stars Gilt show. I was showing a York gilt that I had done extremely well with all season, including Breed Champion honors at the Hill Country District Junior Livestock Show. She was also my showmanship partner, and we worked together to win the Massey Showmanship Award at that same district show. In San Angelo, I drove her up to the ring for the first look and was devastated --- the dead sea! I couldn’t believe what was happening! My mom, dad and uncle always told me to never give up, and t o
show my pigs all the way back to the pen. That’s exactly what I did. As the judge entered the dead sea for one last look, we kicked it into high gear. We hit our show stride right in front of him as we moved towards the gate and were rewarded with the last pen in our class. We actually went on to win the class and make the sale. That experience sticks in my mind every time I enter the show ring.
My Favorite Pig: While I have bonded with many pigs over my short showing career, my favorite pig would be Sunny. She is a Yorkshire sow that I showed four show seasons ago and has become one of our foundation females. We continue to breed her pure each year and have had incredible success with her offspring; we currently have two of her daughters in our herd as well. She is my favorite because she just has this attitude and personality about her that is so intelligent and loving and she has been that way ever since we brought her home to the farm. She was one of the best show gilts I have ever shown and always was my partner in showmanship competitions. I have come to realize that each pig has their own personality, and the bonds we form are like those people form with their dogs and cats. Raising pigs gives me the opportunity to bond with them from birth and the excitement of farrowing a litter of pigs to see how the genetic match up works out is amazing, almost like opening presents on your birthday! The personal rewards of raising and showing your own livestock are priceless, especially when you have success in the show ring. My showmanship accomplishments are some of my proudest moments. Those wins represent the ultimate teamwork of my family, the close bonding and relationships I have formed with my pigs, and the hard work that begins at home --- all essential elements of becoming a good showman. I am also proud of the knowledge I have gained about swine in general through my participation skillathons, in particular the San Antonio Livestock Show swine skillathon. I have had great support and help from my family as well.
Lessons Learned: Being involved in production agriculture has taught me many valuable lessons, allowed me to meet numerous people and gain lasting friendships along the way. Responsibility and hard work go a long way and I truly believe that you get out of it what you put into it. I have gone to jackpot shows and hadn’t really put in all the hard work with certain animals, and the results showed. I have also learned about safe and healthy livestock production and its importance in the food chain. As producers, we not only have a responsibility to produce safe food and protect and promote animal well-being but we must also ensure practices to protect public health, safeguard natural resources, and promote ethical principles that contribute to a better quality of life in our
communities; all of which are principles of the “We Care” initiative of the National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council. Finally, I have learned to cherish every moment in life, as they come and go quickly. I won’t be able to show pigs forever, so I have to make the most of this time while I can! My mom has given me the best advice applicable to both the show ring and life in general. She continuously tells me not to change who I am or the way I show just to meet a judge’s preference. Every time I enter the show ring, she reminds me with these words, “Just do you!”
School, Community and Extra-curricular activities:
I’m a competitor, no matter what the event. Outside the showring, I am very involved in athletics. I was a member of the two-time Comfort Middle School District Champion volleyball and basketball teams and I have also been very successful in cross country and track events. While middle school athletics forced a short break from golf where I played in the local U.S. Kid Golf Tour, I am looking forward to playing again in high school next year. Anyone who knows me, knows I have a passion for volleyball, and I play anytime I can. I have been playing since I was about eight years old and have played club volleyball for several years outside of school. I am planning to be a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In addition to athletics, I am involved in student council and have excelled in other UIL activities like oral reading, modern oratory, and math competitions. I like to give back to my school and community and volunteer at school events like the bike rodeo and school festival. I also serve as an officer in my local 4-H club as well as our County 4-H Swine Club. I have also been fortunate enough to make the Superindendent’s Honor Roll, and was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society at the end of my seventh grade year. NJHS has been a great experience for me; one that has included leadership opportunities as well as citizenship and giving through community service projects. I plan to continue to challenge myself academically by taking honors and dual credit classes throughout high school.
My Future: Continue showing as long as I possibly can. While raising show pigs is very expensive, I hope to learn more about the production and financial aspects of the operation. As I enter high school next year, I will also be joining the FFA, taking agriculturerelated classes to further my knowledge of livestock production and would like to get more involved in livestock judging. I would like to encourage kids like me who are passionate about livestock, especially show pigs, to get involved in their 4-H and FFA clubs, and species-related associations like the Texas Pork Producers Association. There are great resources available and opportunities to learn and make new friends all in the name of agriculture. I am looking forward to again attending the TPPA Conference this July and invite my fellow swine enthusiasts to join me in Kerrville for a great time!