It’s no secret that the harder you work for something, the sweeter the reward is. Well, winning Grand Champion Market Hog at the Big Horn County Fair felt pretty sweet for upcoming high school junior, Aiden Graham, because he had raised his pig from birth.
“I picked out the best pig of the litter and I fed him really well,” Aiden stated about his 324-pound champion.
It all began for Aiden three years ago when he decided to show a pig for the first time at his county fair. There was not a ready supply of show pigs in the greater Lodge Grass area, but Aiden bought a nice pig from his neighbor and the pig received blue ribbons in both the confirmation and showmanship classes.
Aiden was hooked at that point and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I decided that I really liked pigs, but it was my mom’s idea. She suggested that we start raising show pigs,” said Aiden.
When it came time to purchase pigs for the next 4-H year, Aiden and his mom, Delphine, picked out a couple extra piglet gilts to start their breeding program. A few years down the road, Aiden now raises pigs as part of his Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) through the FFA. He proudly owns two sows, four gilts and one young boar that will be ready for breeding next year.
So far, AI-ing has been Aiden’s primary breeding source. There wasn’t anyone in the area that really knew how to AI pigs, so Delphine figured out the process entirely on her own by using the internet and consulting with the local veterinarian. She then passed everything she knew onto her son and together they have built a reputable breeding program.
“I taught Aiden everything I knew about AI-ing and he did an illustrated talk for 4-H. He won on the county level and got second at the Montana State 4-H Congress in 2018. He was then able to attend the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Ga., in November 2018, because of that,” Delphine stated.
It is clear that 4-H and FFA have been a huge part of Aiden’s life and he emphasized those organizations are the reason he has this business. He and his mom wanted to be able to raise quality show animals for those who wish to compete at the local fair.
The majority of Aiden’s pigs are sold to 4-H and FFA members as show animals, but some are bought as feeder pigs. Aiden offers a custom feeding program for those who would rather have him raise and feed the pigs until they are ready to be processed.
Running a show pig business has presented its challenges, but Aiden embraces the learning opportunity. Aiden has had to learn how to feed his group of pigs in an economical way. Now he mixes and grinds his own feed for the sows using spelt raised on his family farm and corn he purchases from a neighbor. He also adds in a protein powder he buys from the local feed store.
“We always have to watch their feed and you’ve really got to watch your budget,” the young pig producer said.
Balancing a busy school schedule and a growing pig business may seem overwhelming to some, but Aiden wouldn’t have it any other way. He explained that after starting this business, he now envisions his life to always be in production agriculture, where before that wasn’t always the case.
“Raising pigs has been a great experience, it has taught me a lot of great life lessons,” said Aiden.
Looking ahead, Aiden plans to continue raising pigs through high school and when the time comes, he wants to hand the business over to his younger brothers, Luke age 13 and Cole age 11.
County fair season may be drawing to an end, but breeding season is right around the corner for Aiden and his mom, and that means picking out boars to breed and coordinating FedEx deliveries. All pig semen must be fresh, so it takes some skill, and of course, some patience to make sure everything lines up like it should.
Aiden will begin farrowing the end of January/beginning of February and it is possible that may be his favorite time of year.
“Just to see the piglets and the happy mom, it makes it all worth it,” he stated.