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franklin county times

Registration opens for 4-H Pig Squeal as Chick Chain wraps

Animal projects are among the many opportunities traditionally offered through 4-H, and Franklin County has a long-standing history of having youth show their award-winning animals at state fairs and livestock shows. For local 4-H, the annual Chick Chain program has just wrapped, while the yearly Pig Squeal is gearing up.

While there has been some decline of youth participation in animal programs, Franklin County 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent Austin Blankenship said he hopes to be able to change the pace and get more youth involved with animal showmanship.

“Many people remember the farmer’s son or daughter being the one to show the winning heifer at the state fair and 4-H show,” said Blankenship, “however, youth do not need to own or have access to a large farm to participate in 4-H animal projects.”

Several smaller livestock 4-H projects do not require the amount of space and expense that a cattle-based would require – like Pig Squeal.

Starting this month, Franklin County 4-H is recruiting participants for the Upper Northwest Alabama 4-H Pig Squeal Project.

This project teaches young people recommended management practices for growing and raising swine. Participants develop swine management skills, learn to produce healthy pigs, develop awareness of business management and develop record-keeping skills.

In mid-January, participants will receive two feeder pigs that will be approximately 60 days old and weigh approximately 50 pounds. They will all come from a reputable nursery and will be properly vaccinated, Blankenship added.

He said the youth participants will care for these pigs for approximately 100 days.  At the end of this time, youth will bring one of the hogs to the Upper Northwest Alabama 4-H Pig Squeal Show and Auction April 22, at which time the pig will be shown and auctioned off, with youth receiving prize money and a portion of the auction proceeds.

The auctioned hogs will be processed at a slaughterhouse, and the bidder will pick up their meat and pay the slaughter fee. The bidder will not have to take possession of a live animal.

Prior to getting the pigs, youth and a parent must attend a mandatory training session. At this meeting, youth will receive valuable information to assist them in preparing for and raising their pigs. Youth also will be given the designated pickup site and date for acquiring their two feeder pigs. Pigs will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

Those interested should complete a registration form, available at the Franklin County Extension Office in Russellville or online on the Franklin County 4-H Facebook Page. To participate in the project, youth must pay a $150 fee, due to the Extension Office no later than Nov. 16, Blankenship added.

Recently 4-H members from six northwest Alabama counties participated in the Northwest Alabama 4-H Chick Chain Show and Auction. Blankenship said Franklin County had four participants in the Chick Chain Project.

Each participant in the 4-H Chick Chain Project received 10 chicks this past spring, all 1-2-day-old pullets. All the chicks came from a reputable hatchery in Leighton and were properly vaccinated. Youth received five chicks of two different breeds: Amberlink and Rhode Island Red.

Youth fed and cared for the pullets for approximately 20 weeks.

At the end of this time, youth brought two of their best pullets to 4-H Chick Chain Show and Auction. During the show, youth were judged on showmanship and record books, while the birds were judged in breed classes.

Blankenship said the 4-H Chick Chain Project teaches children the recommended management practices for growing and raising chickens. He said participation helps youth develop poultry management skills, learn to produce healthy chickens, develop awareness of business management, develop record-keeping skills, contribute to their home food supply and realize the pride of accomplishment.

Other animal projects, such as the independent Rabbit Project and Franklin County 4-H Horse Club, have found a unique home in Franklin County 4-H and are thriving programs.

Youth ages 9-18 as of Jan. 1, 2023, may participate in 4-H animal projects.

For more information about Franklin County 4-H animal projects, contact the Franklin County Extension Office at 256-332-8880 or Blankenship at 256-324-8835.