The inaugural Upper 8 4-H Swine Show was a huge success for the Unicoi County UT Extension Agency – allowing students to showcase their projects and hone their show skills.
“With UT Extension, we’re divided into a western, central and eastern region,” said Chris Mackey, district director of the UT Extension Agency. “Then we break into small groups that we work with more closely and our sub-regional group is the Upper 8 (Hawkins, Hancock, Green, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoy, Washington, Carter). That doesn’t mean we don’t work with other counties outside of our subregions, because at Extension it really is like one big family.
The Upper 8 4-H Swine Show was held on December 20th.
“This was the first year that our sub-regional group put on a show for our hog exhibitors to help them prepare for the Jan. 12-14 state show in Cookeville,” Mackey added.
“There were several shows that started in November that these kids can attend in the winter to help the kids get their pigs ready for the grand finale at the State Expo,” he noted. “These shows are put on by different people all over the state, or the kids could travel out of state if they wanted to.”
Mackie added that students can show all types of livestock; cattle (beef and dairy), sheep, goats, pigs and poultry.
“There are shows specifically for juniors that usually run from youth (ages 8-21) or their January 1 class (fourth through 12th grade),” he explained. “There are also open shows available to everyone and there are no age restrictions to participate.”
Mackie noted that the shows are all over the country, including Hawaii and Alaska.
“To do well on a test, you have to study and prepare, right? The same goes for showing livestock,” Mackey said. “Spending time preparing the cattle for how they will be presented at the show is the most important factor.
“It is important that youngsters and exhibitors establish a schedule and routine for walking, washing, brushing and feeding,” he continued. “You don’t have to wash your project every day, you don’t have to walk them, but more practice and work you put in at home will pay off tenfold at these shows.”
The students who participate in the shows say their love for animals drives them to do what they do.
“This is my first year showing pigs,” said student Tommy Joy Hensley. “I show both cattle and sheep. My favorite part of the project is spending time with my animals. You have to do a lot of work at home to be ready to show off. You have to learn to be responsible because the animals depend on you.”
Student Kali Karti has been showing for two years and enjoys the experience of the events.
“My favorite part is the score, making new friends and meeting new people,” she said. “You have to practice, practice, practice, work hard and always keep your head up.”
Mackey said he wanted to thank new UT Collegiate Livestock Judging Coach Taylor Langford and the 2022-2023 UT LJT for spending the evening helping prepare these students for the state show.
“We are excited about the future of this program and event,” Mackey said.
“Meeting and connecting with so many people from all walks of life and learning from people who have already been there and done that is one of my favorite parts,” added Mackie. “You can gain so much knowledge and wisdom from the older generation and in an ever-evolving clientele and customer demand, it’s great to see how these people keep up with the times and still have a demand for their cattle and products. I also enjoy working with children and helping them succeed in their dreams and passions.”