As a graduate of the World Wide College of Auctioneering, I love a good auction. And, as someone who grew up on a farm raising and showing pigs, I certainly also love a good swine related event. Combine the two? Well, now you are really pulling my attention your way.
It should be no surprise that Iowa's livestock industry is critical to Iowa's economy. Recent studies note that it is responsible for over 120,000 jobs and billions in revenue. Naturally, most of that is attributed to commercial protein production. All of that livestock eats a lot of the corn, soybeans, and distillers grain (left over from ethanol production) that are produced in our state.
However, you cannot discount the importance of Iowa's show industry - from pigs and cattle to sheep and goats. National expositions hosted in our state bring people and their dollars here and the tens of thousands of Iowa 4-Hers and FFA students and their families keep our county fairs going. Some of these youth raise their own animals - but many are raised by farmers who supply that growing demand. Like with any part of our economy, there's also a whole supply chain that benefits from that - from semen sales and breeding stock purchases to feed and equipment sales. Many of these producers help to contribute in many ways to the vitality of their rural communities.
On a recent Saturday evening, I made the jaunt down to Osceola to check out the Backdrop Bound Pig Sale (winners want their picture in front of a nice backdrop at a fair) at the very nice Clarke County Fairgrounds on the west side of town.
Before hitting up the sale, I had a very delicious dinner at Percussion the Restaurant, a few blocks to the east of the fairgrounds on Highway 34. The restaurant and the fairground are on opposite sides of Interstate 35.
Approximately 50 show pigs, roughly two to three months in age, were offered for sale by the consignors. When you go to a show pig sale, every breeder will have a their own pen with their pigs in it and prospective buyers can check out the pigs before the sale. The breeders will of course have marketing information about their farm, too.
The consignors will often stand in their pen or near it to make sure that the prospective buyers get their questions answered and to make sure that the pigs are well presented.
Of course, the pigs have ample access to feed and water.
There's also food and drink available for the humans too.
Some of it is even offered in creative ways - like candy in a feeder that would otherwise be used for the pigs. I'll let you make your own joke here.
At this age, the pigs are pretty cute but by the time they are shown this summer, they will more than exceed 250lbs and maybe even 300lbs in some cases.
There was a large crowd on hand. Lots of variation in age.
There is an auctioneer and clerk on the "block" and then a couple of ring men working the room.
Once they get started, they sale runs pretty smoothly. Pigs are sold one by one with a basement of $300. Some of them sold for $300 but I witnessed one sell for $3900. Most of them bring anywhere from $400 to $1000. At some of the really big shows, breeding stock can sell for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last June I went to the World Pork Expo and witnessed a Yorkshire boar sell for $150,000.
I got a buyer's number (just because) but I live in a townhouse with no place to raise a pig. However, there is a sale order which gives information about each "lot". Most of the pigs are crossbred but there are a few purebreds.
Across Iowa and really the whole Midwest - you'll find a lot of these sales happening somewhere every weekend this time of year. However, like a lot of commerce transactions these days, there are also a lot of sales happening online. One particular site sometimes has several a day. If you go to a county or state fair this summer (which you all should), there's a good chance some of the animals exhibited will be purchased at a sale just like this. Iowa's show pig industry continues to grow and events like this are proof that there are opportunities no matter where you live or how big of a farm you have.