FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS COMES
r Spotlight e c u od
Schwertner SHOW PIGS
ithout question, Schwertner Show Pigs is a family affair. It’s how the farm began and that’s the plan for the future. It started back in 1992 when Harvey and Linda, who both grew up showing some hogs, realized that as their own family grew they were going to be having six children in the junior livestock program. “Six kids…having to buy livestock for all of them… economically it wouldn’t be possible to buy enough high quality animals,” Harvey Schwertner thought. So they decided to give it a try, and what originally started 25 years ago with two sows and a teaser boar, grew into a passion for raising good red hogs, and an operation known for their quality stock and even better people. “My kids had the biggest influence on me,” Harvey said. “I wanted them to be involved in showing livestock, and they had tried just about everything and settled on pigs.” With their enthusiasm, Harvey wanted to give his children the best chance he could at being competitive in the show ring, and there was only one way to do that Harvey explained, “So I took it upon myself, with the help of Linda, to become that provider.” Agriculture has always been a huge part of Harvey and Linda’s lives, and their passion for farming and raising pigs developed much earlier than 1992. Since being old enough to drive a tractor, Harvey has been a lifelong farmer growing mostly cotton, milo and wheat in the Miles area. His wonderful wife Linda also grew up around Miles, with both of their families having hogs on their farms for show and butcher, yet on a smaller scale. After Harvey and Linda’s start with Durocs, the operation grew. Denny Heathcott, who had been raising really good Black OPB’s over the years in Winters, became a good friend and mentor to the Schwertner family. That led to them eventually partnering on a few sows and keeper gilts. Later on, another good friend, Hank Byrd, who had been buying pigs and bringing buyers to Harvey, partnered with Schwertner and Heathcott on a few females. As the herd grew to 30-plus sows, those partnered breeding stock and the original herd of Harvey’s eventually became SHB, Schwertner-HeathcottByrd, Showpigs. Now this operation, initially started for their family, came full circle when their daughter Jodie and her husband, Todd, moved back home to help with the family farm. As their own boys became of age to start showing, Todd and Jodie became more interested in raising pigs. They eventually bought out a portion of the herd to bring it back to what Harvey had started as Schwertner Show Pigs.
The third of six Schwertner kids, Jodie grew up on the farm where her love of farming and livestock developed. “I spent my summers the typical farm kid way,” Jodie joyfully remembers, “chopping cotton, driving tractors, harvesting and taking care of pigs. We really didn’t have vacations; stock shows were our vacation.” During this time, Jodie was very active in 4-H and FFA and developed a great eye and interest for livestock judging. After two years attending South Plains College on the livestock judging team, she transferred to Texas A&M University and graduated in 2002. Todd grew up in Eden, working on ranches and was very active in youth rodeos as a team roper. He graduated from the South Plains Police Academy and became a K-9 handler for the Grimes County Sheriff’s Office and then the Upton County Sheriff’s Office. Now, Jodie and her husband of sixteen years, Todd, reside in Ballinger with their three sons, Reagan, Trent, and Owen. Although Todd is currently the Owner/Agent of Helms Insurance Agency in Ballinger, with a branch in Eden, and Jodie is a Program Technician for Farm Service Agency of Concho County, they stay heavily involved in the operation of Schwertner Show Pigs with their children and parents. Currently the family farm farrows out between 30-40 sows a year, with the majority of those as summer litters. They too will have a couple litters for World Pork Expo and between 5-10 litters in the spring. They use the offseason to test out new boars and see how the genetics line up and turn out. Although everyone is very active in the show pig operation and will jump in to help with anything, they all have their roles. The main farm and starting place of Schwertner Show Pigs is in Miles, where Harvey and Linda live and handle the day to day operations with a portion of the sows and the main boars utilized. This is where all the farrowing, weaning, sales, feed mixing and boar collection happens.
Harvey and Linda Schwertner married 44 years, 6 kids, 11 grandchildren
Todd and Jodie Helms
married 16 years, 3 sons, Reagan, Trent & Owen
“My dad keeps this place running,” Jodie said. “He manages every bit of the feed, planning and organizing breeding season, and has a knack for picking breeding stock.” The sow herd at Schwertner Show Pigs is comprised of approximately 25 Durocs, 6 Crossbred, and 6 Berks, while their boar battery currently consists of 6 Duroc boars and 1 Crossbred. Only 25 miles down the road in Ballinger, Jodie and Todd house around half the sows and a few boars during the off season. “Todd and Jodie do an excellent job of taking care of our customers. Whether it is feeding advice, setting up selling appointments or networking with other breeders and feeders, they got it,” Harvey said. What do they owe their success to? Great friends, family, hard work and choosing the right genetics for their operation. Harvey states, “It took a lot of hard learning experiences but with time and good friends like Denny and Hank, we ended up where we are today and now I’m able to continue providing for my grandkids and other show kids across the area and state.” A keen eye, studying and building around the right genetics, and believing in their plan has no doubt laid the foundation for the success to only endure. The main philosophy for this family in raising pigs, is to be honest with others and yourself.
“Be the most critical of your stock,” Todd said. “When one is not good, it’s not good, regardless of how attached you are to the genetic line.” In addition to thinking about longevity of their sows, for Todd and Jodie now feeding out a barn of gilts and barrows for their sons, they know just how competitive the show ring is and what separates the top end is structural correctness. “Feet and legs are most important! If they don’t have a good set of running gear, it doesn’t matter what else you have.” Harvey still believes that muscle is always a must, but that it’s not needed as extreme as it has been before. “For boars, he loves the first look, with that head and chest floor coming at you,” Linda said. Harvey really enjoys the breeding side and evaluating boars and potential keeper gilts. “I like to see more of an extreme look for boars, but not over the top. On gilts, I’m a little more relaxed on how much power and width they have, but if they’re going to make it into my keeper pen, they still need to possess a good bit of it at the 5-6 month age.” Jodie adds, “While we all differ slightly with our preferences, we try to combine our thoughts to find stock that we are happy with. We balance each other out, which is really where we see the trend going and that’s all about balance. Mobility is key; hogs have to get out and stride fluently for a longer
“Be the most critical of your own stock.”
period of time and all the pieces have to fit together.” The teamwork concept has obviously yielded great results, as they have built a sow herd and set of boars that’s quite impressive. They also credit the Buck Cherry line with having the greatest impact on the improvement of their hogs. “Our old boar, Truck, put us on the map,” Harvey said. “He was a Whiskey Joe (Buck Cherry) x Buck Fever and not only got us numerous banners, class winners and sale makers, but we kept several boars out of him and have daughters in production.” They’re certainly not ones to brag but, over the years, gilts and barrows coming off this farm have consistently hung banners at county shows and the esteemed Texas majors, and have become perennial favorites in any Duroc drive. For Harvey, a special moment came in 2011 when he received a phone call telling him he just raised the Grand Champion Barrow at the State Fair of Texas with one of his red hogs. “When you go to a show and realize that your name is being called out with some of the big breeders you have looked up to in the past, I felt like I had finally accomplished something!” However, he adds that there’s been many proud moments along the way when his kids were still showing, and the first time they got two 2011 Grand Champion Market Barrow pigs in the sale at San Antonio, as well as anytime he STATE FAIR OF TEXAS watches his stock do well at the show for a kid. However, this success does not come without its challenges. “Today it’s so hard to not only market your pigs, but it can be tough getting them into the hands of great feeders.” Todd explains that learning how to market your stock is absolutely important and admits that it’s still something they’re learning to do. He continues to describe that there is a lot of challenges and potential issues out there that everyone will have to deal with at some point when raising hogs, and that’s why their biggest advice to anyone wanting to raise show pigs – is to network! “Network with other breeders, ag teachers, county agents, TPPA, feeders, reps,” Todd says. “We all love to talk hogs! Don’t be afraid to ask for help; we’ve all been there and know how difficult it can be.” Jodie adds that some of the best advice they’ve been given is, “If your whole family doesn’t truly have a passion for raising pigs, it will never work at this level.”
“If your whole family doesn’t truly have a passion for raising pigs, it will never work at this level.”
Schwertner Show Pigs has had a lot of success over the past 25 years, but they aren’t stopping there. They plan to keep improving and want to continue to provide competitive show pigs. They strongly believe in this industry, its values and the kids it produces. “There’s so many great people we’ve met and that are in our lives because of this industry and the youth benefit so much from it. Stock show kids in general possess a work ethic like none other,” said Jodie. “It seems they have a respect for everything – hard work, winning, losing – they know and understand what it takes to get to the top. For us, we see our kids work their tails off not just with the show pigs, but the whole farm, and know that we are teaching them life skills and lessons they won’t learn anywhere else.” In a constantly changing world with so many distractions, you can bet what will always stay the same at Schwertner Show Pigs – family values. It’s fitting that when asked about what their number one highlight is, Jodie humbly states on behalf of everyone, “Being able to do this as a family is what we cherish most.”
“Being able to do this as a family is what we cherish most.”
Producer Spotlight - Texas Pork