Are We Doing it Right?
October 28, 2018

by Russell Pedrett


Wow, what a whirlwind 2018 has been! If you’re involved with showing, raising, feeding, or judging livestock here in the western United States then you know what I’m talking about! It seems that every year there are more events to fill our calendars and more opportunities for young people to buy, raise, and exhibit livestock. As a show pig producer here in Northern California, I can tell you that the demand for show pigs year after year seems to know no bounds. No matter the season or time of year, there is a show to go to that people are needing project animals for, and their enthusiasm seems stronger every year. As I travel to different shows within our state and region, I am constantly amazed by how many young, new families there are participating and it always gives me a sense of security that our show industry has a bright future.

That being said, I think it’s important for us to take a step back and ask ourselves, are we doing this right? Are we setting up our industry for success and paving the way for its future? Whether you are an exhibitor, a parent, a breeder, a show official,  a judge, a teacher, a leader, or a student, you make choices as you interact with other members of our industry and those decisions may have both direct and indirect consequences on others. Are you portraying yourself or your business, your school or 4-H club, or your show/event in a positive manner? Do people look to you or your entity you as an example or do they wonder what you’ve got going on behind the scenes? While an article I wrote last year talked about exhibitors and breeders “doing it right”, I’d like to focus this one on the ever so important livestock shows that give exhibitors a venue to show and breeders a market for their stock.

Something anyone who has ever attended a livestock show has heard more than once is “So and so is cheating, they did this and they broke the rules in this way, etc”. No matter where or what kind of show it is, there are always people accusing others of breaking the rules and making excuses for why their animals weren’t winners. What always seems to happen is that those shows will make more and more rules every year with the good intention of “stopping” the cheating. In my opinion, in today’s day and age, many shows have taken it way too far and have implemented policies that discourage participation and ultimately drive people away. While I don’t claim to be an expert or to have all the answers, I can speak from the experiences I have helping kids and families as they fill out entry forms, attend, and exhibit at various shows across the state and country. And what I can tell you is nearly all people have a very difficult time understanding all the rules at some of these shows and many need help entering their projects.

Modern livestock show rules at many of these events have become so complicated that even I, at times, have to rely on others to help get kids and animals registered and entered properly. What I’ll never understand is how some shows are so willing and sometimes eager to kick kids out simply because they didn’t check the right box on their online entry form. Is it really that big of an inconvenience to allow an exhibitor to enter showmanship late because they didn’t know it was a separate form online? Do we really need to tell a family they can’t come to a show because they didn’t know their DNA and their online entries had to be done separately? I can cite dozen of examples I’ve witnessed over the last couple of years where shows have not allowed exhibitors to participate over very minor and often ridiculous reasons. Yes, it is absolutely important to have entry deadlines and to teach our young people that those deadlines must be followed- that’s how life works. But when there are many different deadlines, different sets of rules and guidelines for each deadline, the rules change every year, and when the parents can’t even figure out how to get their entries completed— maybe we ought to cut little Johnny some slack and let him show his pig in showmanship. I’d like to bring up a prime example that happened recently at a major southwest fair, where over 40 purebred gilt exhibitors weren’t allowed to show because their registration papers listed the owners as “Johnny and Jane Smith” instead of just “Johnny Smith”.  I don’t want to sound like I’m being overly critical of the management of some of these shows, because they do have very stressful and thankless jobs. However, I do think that many of them tend to forget how much time and money people have wrapped up in their projects and how devastating it can be for a family who traveled across the country to attend an event only to find out they can’t show due to a technicality. How would you feel if you were “Johnny Smith’s” parents? If you were a show official or fair board member in that situation, what would your answer be when you ask yourself, “Are we doing this right?” We want to encourage participation, not discourage it!

Another issue I’d like to touch on that I’ve seen more at a county fair level than a national level, is how many of these shows have strict limits on the number and which animals that can be tagged and entered per exhibitor. I’ll give a couple examples, the first one at a Northern California county fair: exhibitors may only enter two hogs and family members may not share “back up” animals. So, if a family with two kids wants to have a “back up” hog in case something happens to one of the kids’ projects, they have to choose which kid owns that back up hog 60 days prior to the show when entries are due. If they choose the wrong kid and the other one’s pig dies, he/she cannot show the “back-up” and the other child is left with  an extra animal that cannot be shown. At the same show, if a different family has 8 head of pigs on feed because they want to show at State Fair a month later, they still have to choose those 4 fair hogs two months in advance even though they've have met all ownership requirements and done all the work — in fact, more work, than those kids with just one animal. I would ask, what are the reasons behind these rules, and are they more about discouraging, rather than encouraging entries? Example #2: a southern Oregon fair allows kids to tag two animals for their fair. That same fair only gives a 50 pound window for market hogs to make weight, 230- 280 pounds. If an exhibitor shows up with their better hog and fails to make the 230 pound minimum weight, they are not allowed to go home and weigh in their back up project to exhibit. What kind of sense does that make? Are we that eager to discourage youth from showing that we would prevent them from exhibiting for no apparent reason? Again, I would ask someone in a position of power at these shows, what would your answer be to the
question, “Are we doing this right?”

Finally, the issue of drug residue testing and “Zero Tolerance” policies has been a very hot topic this past couple of years, and I don’t think there is a good understanding between exhibitors and show officials in regards to this topic AT ALL. Again, I think our modern stock shows all have good intentions in the implementation of their drug testing programs — of course we want to ensure that A) we are selling a safe product to those buyers who end up consuming our livestock projects and B) exhibitors are not gaining an unfair advantage by using drugs that are not prescribed for their animals in an effort to change their appearance or performance. It all sounds good right? Don’t we all wish it were that simple! Our modern technology is now so advanced that it can pick up parts per trillion of a substance in a urine test. Think about it- parts per trillion! Now the Food and Drug Administration sets approved withdrawal times for all of the different drugs available in our livestock industry, and those withdrawal times are based on studies of tissue samples and the time it takes for those substances to be “out of the animal’s system”. Here’s where it gets complicated: it is entirely possible, and in fact somewhat likely, that an animal who has been treated for an illness well before the FDA’s withdrawal period, will show up with a positive urine test for that substance. So for example, Johnny’s pig has a swelled hock 25 days before the show he’s going to. His vet prescribes the normal dose of Banamine for three days in a row. Banamine has a withdrawal period of 12 days if given at the recommended dose. Johnny treats his pig, he gets better, and is named breed champion at the national show 22 days later. However, this show observes a “Zero Tolerance Policy”, and when ultra low levels of Banamine show up in his urine test, Johnny’s pig is disqualified, he loses all his premium and auction money, and he’s banned from showing at that event for the rest of his career. Does that sound dramatic? It’s very real, and in fact it happened to nearly a half dozen swine exhibitors at a national show last year. Has Johnny done anything wrong? Taking it a step further, it has been proven that a hog not given any injections or drugs, when exposed to others that have been treated with different substances will produce a positive urine sample with very low levels. So, let me give you a scenario: you’re at a national show where gilts and barrows are exhibited (and often asked to share or split pens due to space limitations). The
breeding gilt show is first, and there is no drug test because the gilts aren’t entering the food chain. The next day is the barrow show and a “zero tolerance” drug testing policy is observed. Based on what we know about residue testing, it is entirely possible for a barrow to test positive for a substance he was never treated with, especially if he was penned with/next to gilts that were being treated. Under some current “Zero Tolerance” policies, the exhibitors of those animals who produce very minuscule levels in their residue test are disqualified, have their award money stripped, and are banned from showing again at that event. One major show has written in its rules this year that it will ban exhibitors for life if caffeine is found in their animal's system. So little Johnny gives his pig a sip of his Coke and now he's banned for life? Does this circumstance sound like we are "doing it right" Or are we perhaps taking it a few steps too far? I think it’s important to note that I’m not advocating for those people who
don’t follow the rules — I believe there is a place for drug testing in this industry and it is important to ensure we are producing a safe product for our consumers. And when it comes to illegal substances -- absolutely we should not tolerate their use. But I am advocating for those who do follow the rules, do everything right, and are clearly still at risk of being punished. What are we teaching our young people when they do everything by the book and still get punished? Must we follow a “zero tolerance” policy? To those show officials, can we use our judgment by evaluating residue levels and if the residue level is within FDA tolerance parameters assume that rules were obeyed?


In summary, I do believe that our livestock show industry is full of good people with good intentions. As is human nature, we all do our best to be competitive, and that's part of what our youth livestock programs should be about -- teaching people how to succeed and how to win in life. Let's just make sure we do it right, whether we're exhibitors, parents, leaders, judges, or in show management.Our future is at stake.Happy fall everyone!


Advertising in 2018
December 21, 2017

by Russell Pedrett


Over the past few years here at Ottenwalter Showpigs we have grown and expanded immensely. Not only has our sow herd population risen in numbers, but our customer base has vastly increased too. We give a lot of credit for our growth to our advertising abilities and a few innovations that we've found especially valuable. I thought it would be a good idea, starting the New Year, to share with our readers the endless opportunities there are out there to advertise. Whether you own a large established livestock operation or you are just getting started, these tools can benefit your business.

The millennial generation is the biggest generation in US history. Combine millennials with the always growing use of technology and wa-lah! Snapchat has become one of the most popular cell phone apps used around the world. It has also become an awesome advertising tool! We first chose to purchase a Snapchat Geofilter at last year's Arizona National Livestock Show. A Geofilter allows Snapchat app users to take a photo of something or a selfie and place an overlay that captures where you are or what you are doing. We created our own Geofilter using our farm logo and it was a huge hit. Since then we have used a Geofilter at many shows and have seen many other farms start to do the same. It sounds silly, but I promise, the amount of photos we receive while those filters are running is incredible! And they aren’t hard to set up.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are also helpful advertising tools! We update our social media constantly; sharing winners, sale dates, semen overrun, give away contests, and any other farm information that we would like to share publicly. It reaches a very wide cross section of people! And it’s FREE! Something new that we began in the fall of 2016 is we started hosting Facebook Live – Live Video Streaming previews of our pigs before our sales. Now we can allow customers to view all of the lots in our sales a week or so in advance on a live video. In the past we have only used photos on our website prior to a sale. We still do take photos, but Facebook Live takes advertising our sale lots to a whole new level! During the video people can comment as the livestream is going by typing in a message and we can answer it live right then in actual time on camera. The best part is, if we are videoing in California at 8:00pm and its 11:00pm on the East Coast, the Facebook Live Video stays on the Facebook page for people to review as many times as they want, even days later. This tool has really broadened our farms reach and it gives customers a lot more confidence in their buying decisions -- which is ultimately a BIG win for both the buyer and seller.

Of course, magazine advertising is always an excellent choice. Livestock magazines like the Pacific Showcase have a large list of recipients who are involved and interested in the same things you are! Pacific Showcase offers many different options for different budgets. We have run a cover ad multiple times but more often we run a full page ad and have found them to have a "great bang for our buck. However, it is fun to go to a livestock show and see a family purchasing a bundle of copies of a magazine because their kids are on the front cover. Another terrific tool that Pacific Showcase offers that many may not realize is the ability to send e-blasts. Before our sales, we will have them design an e-blast for us and send it out to their entire mailing list. This serves to both remind people of when the sale is, and also to capture the attention of potential new customers. We've found a great value in this little trick.

Most people these days have smart phones. We receive videos and photos of pigs by text, questions on feed, orders for semen, etc. Heck, I even order our sow feed for the farm by text message. Another tool we have utilized is “Text Alerts”. This has helped us sell overrun semen by allowing us to send out a mass text to our subscribers when we have overrun semen available. This is very beneficial to help us sell unsold semen and it is a great service to the buyer because they're made aware of availability and will receive a discount. All of this information is received via text message to those who sign up for it on our webpage. We use it to remind folks about our sales too!

As corny as it sounds hastags (####) have become extremely popular! A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign and is used to identify messages on a specific topic. Check out #teamottenwalter and you will be in awe of all the photos and social media posts associated with our hashtag! For us, it started as a hashtag a few years ago and has now become a brand for us. We once called people who bought our hogs “customers” now they have all become a part of the #teamottenwalter family!

Hats. Everyone loves a free hat. If you can afford it, have a logo designed for your farm and order some hats with the logo on them. Here, at Ottenwalter Showpigs we are excited to announce that we will be coming out with an online store soon! It will have hats, shirts and jackets available with our logo on them. In addition to gear, we will also be featuring some of the products we feed and recommend. We hope it will be a convenient tool for customers to use. We have been pleased and humbled by the success and support from our #teamottenwalter family. With our increased uses of technology, we are able to receive customer reports daily and are able to reach a cross section of potential customers we couldn’t before! If you have any questions about advertising tools our farm uses or if you would like some recommendations and referrals to companies, please feel to contact us. We would love to help! If you have new innovative ideas, please share those too!



Sometimes Good Things Happen to Good People
January 2, 2016

by Russell Pedrett


It's the All Species Grand Drive in Phoenix, Arizona at the Arizona National Livestock Show at the end of December and its 75 degrees out. Even from the top of the bleachers, the adrenaline from the exhibitors in the grand drive can be felt. As the hogs leave their pens, judge Kane Causemaker takes the microphone, "I believe in winning and losing, and the difference between the two. I believe in the public display of integrity when you do win or lose. To be humble in victory and be gracious in loss, it is something I don't necessarily live by well, but I'm going to try to teach my kids to live that way. It's certainly important..." he steps out from the mic and shakes the hand of Cheyenne Murdock from Gilbert, Arizona as she drives her Champion Crossbred Barrow across the ring. 


However, what people don't know is the story of how Cheyenne got to that ring, that day.  Going back to September, our firm had our first fall online sale of the year. We had 160 head in it and had at the time one of our more successful fall sales, but like any other off season sale for us there were a handful of "no-sale" pigs. So I stuck them in a pen and shipped all those that had sold to their new homes and never thought twice about the left over group. Two weeks later, I got a call that a York barrow that Cheyenne had bought had died. With a devastated family on the phone, the best I could offer them was one of the "no-sale" pigs to replace it. I got him on the next trailer out and they had him within a week. 


Fast forward to December, I had helped Cheyenne a few times by phone with feed regimens and the barrow had recently been seen by a vet with a cough. Her mom and her borrowed a truck from a friend and loaded their one pig into their little two horse trailer to head to the Arizona National. The crew I traveled with pulled into Phoenix to unload our pigs after a long drive from Northern California and there is Cheyenne with her leg in a boot with a broken foot. I cannot lie and say I had any idea or expectation of what she had in her pen at that time. The show starts and our crew has some successes and then Cheyenne hits the ring with her crossbred barrow on Saturday and we are in awe of what she steps out with. That "no-sale" barrow with that young lady who nobody knows, hit the ring and all eyes were on them. Watching her hand get shook to win her class, then the heavy weight division, then the crossbred division and ultimately the grand drive is a vision that brought tears to many eyes, including the announcer who got choked up and couldn't finish reading her bio.


As I sit down and reflect on the past week at the Arizona National Livestock Show, I can't help but have a warm heart and my eyes well up as I write this. We often ride an emotional roller coaster in this industry. There are days we throw the towel in because a barrow blew its hock, the gilt just won't eat, or we didn't place where we thought we should have. But I do believe in one thing, karma. As rare as those days are for most, sometimes good things happen to good people. 



Keep It in perspective
October 30, 2016

by Russell Pedrett


I swear time flies. As I write this, most of our shows here in California have concluded and we've already begun farrowing litters for next year's May fairs. For this hog farmer, it has been a long but successful show season, and it's nice to sit back and reflect on this past year before we begin again with Arizona Nationals. I was able to witness many great things at the shows this year:


I watched a 4-H family with young kids and a breeding project in their back yard raise the Supreme Champion Market Hog at their competitive fair.


I was able to see a family that works extra hard put in the hours at home and make everything come together to experience success after success on the jackpot circuit in the northwest.


I continue to see and hear about the success of several great kids who recently graduated and are competing on livestock judging teams, while using their work ethic and experience gained from their livestock projects to their benefit. 


With all of the positives, I also witnessed many negatives at the shows this year, and that is what I would like to focus on this issue. While I am certainly not perfect myself, I think that sometimes it is easy for us to lose perspective, no matter what position we are in or what our role is in the show industry. Whether you are a showman, a livestock producer, a parent, a judge, a show manager, or serve on a fair board, your actions are seen and felt by others and have an impact on the youth in our industry. Listed below are a few things I saw this year that made me question "just what exactly are we trying to get done here?"


I saw an FFA member that had spent nearly his entire savings on his steer project have a health issue with his steer. He spent over a month caring for his animal multiple times a day to help him recover, hauled him to UC Davis, and incurred some big vet bills. He brought a statement with him to the fair from his vet at UC Davis saying the animal was healthy only to be told he could not show because the steer's eyes were "unsightly".   What message did that send to the exhibitor?  


I attended a fair that had an issue last year with an exhibitor bringing in an animal past the ownership deadline, and that animal went on to win its division. Instead of punishing that exhibitor, the fair's response this year was to install dozens of video cameras throughout the livestock barns, require drug and DNA testing of nearly all animals upon their arrival, DNA and drug test all division champions and reserves, and require a mandatory tag in day in which a tag was placed in both ears of all market animals. That same fair had multiple animals misplaced into the wrong divisions, and the fair knowingly forced them to compete in the wrong breed divisions to their disadvantage. Again, what is this accomplishing?


At another show I attended, the exhibitor of the Grand Champion Market Animal had obviously not been a part of their project until it showed up at fair. A separate family had purchased and raised the project and brought it to the fair for him to show. Furthermore, it appeared that the selection of that animal as the Supreme Champion demonstrated further corruption and manipulation of a legitimate outcome.


I believe that all three of the examples listed above happened because the people involved lost their perspective. The fair that kicked out the boy with the steer failed to realize not only how much time, effort, and money was wrapped up into his project, but also the message it was sending to that young person and just how discouraging it would be. The fair that went way overboard with their rules and regulations succeeded only in making their participants feel like criminals and in putting the livestock through plenty of unnecessary stress while wasting a lot of money that could have been used on something much more beneficial to the fair. And the people who let others raise their child's project and bring it to the fair lost perspective that it's the hard work and hours put in at home that make winning worthwhile, and they failed in teaching their child that in order to succeed, one must work at it. 


I've seen more rules and regulations added to shows these past few years with good intentions behind them, that in my opinion only discourage participation. Cheaters are still going to cheat, no matter how many rules are put into place, and I think often times it is easy for people to get so hung up trying to prevent it from happening, that they forget about how difficult they're making it on the other 99% of participants. Likewise, I believe those folks that do bend and/or break the rules oftentimes do so because they get so hung up with trying to win that they forget that the real purpose behind the livestock projects is to teach their kids responsibility and work ethic. 


I'll be the first to admit that sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the moment and forget what's really important. When you really think your child has the best animal, or that your child did the very best job in showmanship, and the judge just doesn't agree with you -- it can be hard not to share your emotions or frustrations with others. Just remember that at livestock shows there are always eyes watching, and most of them are young, impressionable eyes. Is it really worth kicking an exhibitor out of a show because they didn't fill out their entries just the right way? How would it feel to be the young person that worked his/her tail off with their project all summer only to get placed behind an exhibitor who tells them that they just met their fair project the day before? Let's do things for the right reasons. Let's hire a judge because he's highly qualified and works well with the exhibitors - not because he's a friend of a fair official. Let's make rules for the benefit of the animals and the fair, not because they will exclude or make it difficult on exhibitors. In today's day and age, with the many challenges our livestock industries are facing, we certainly don't need to turn people away or discourage them. I've always believed that there's nothing better for kids to be involved in than 4-H or FFA. And you will not find more good people in one place anywhere than you will in a livestock barn at the county fair. Sometimes they just need to be reminded to keep it in perspective. This hog farmer included! Happy holidays folks, and I'll see you at the next hog show! 


Ottenwalter show pigs
August 6, 2015

by Russell Pedrett


I still remember showing up for my first day on the job as Herdsman at Ottenwalter Show Pigs back in January 2009. My new boss, Mark, excitedly showed me around the farm and introduced me to my new co-worker, Hugo. Things were so much different back then! Come to think of it, I was so much different back then as well. Over the next several weeks, Mark explained to me his general expectations and showed me all his ways of doing various things throughout the farm. Our farm was nowhere near the size or scope of what it has become in recent years. There were approximately 60 sows and we only had about half of the barns that currently reside on our operation. And those barns were only about half full. It would be inaccurate to say that my career at Ottenwalter Show Pigs got off to a rocky start, because it was much rougher than that! Moving halfway across the country and taking charge of an operation entirely different than what I was used to proved to be easier said than done, and I'm sure if asked, Mark and Sandy would agree that at first none of us were sure if my employment would be a good fit.


Fast forward 6 1/2 years and the outlook at our operation in Colusa is quite different than it was back in early 2009. We now have over 220 sows in production, we employ 7 workers, and we host a pig sale every month of the year (whether it be online or at the farm) except June and July. Looking back, it sure seems to me that we've come a really long ways in our evolution as a show pig operation. If I had the chance to make a different decision at that point in my life 6 1/2 years ago when I began working here, there's no question I would do it all over again, and the truth is I think I would be lost without my role at Ottenwalter Show Pigs. It has been a fun journey and a journey that I look forward to continuing for years to come.


I chose to write about our evolution as a leading show pig firm because 2015 has once again brought about some new changes. We recently hired a new herdsman to join me day in and day out and assist in managing the daily operations at the farm in Colusa. We couldn't be more excited about his potential and pleased to have him on board. I also want to take this time to introduce the rest of our crew. Anyone involved in the show pig industry can attest to how busy life gets on a pig farm-- between breeding and farrowing, selling pigs, attending shows, attempting to help our customers, and just maintaining things at the farm, there's no question it's a busy life with almost zero down time and it's a daily challenge to get everything done. These guys are the glue that holds this farm together! They are the backbone of this pig farm and we're not only very thankful to have them, but we're proud of their efforts and happy to have them as a part of our team.


Cody Meek - Cody comes to us from southeast Oklahoma where he recently graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor's degree in Animal Science. Cody grew up raising show pigs with his dad, who is also a herdsman for a large show pig operation in Oklahoma. Cody managed the swine unit at Oklahoma State, where he worked closely with farm manager John Staude. Staude speaks very highly of Cody's abilities and work ethic, and praises him as one of the best employees that has ever worked under him. In his first two months on the job, Cody has impressed us with his tremendous work ethic and attention to detail. He offers the ability to complete any task asked of him extremely well and also brings to the table a great ability to evaluate and breed hogs. Cody is becoming very well-versed with our program and will be assisting with all of our sales and with customer service, as well as all other aspects involved with the management of Ottenwalter Show Pigs.


Ethan Fry - "Pops" has been an employee here at Ottenwalter Show Pigs for nearly two years. He grew up in Maxwell, California and is currently a student at Chico State University. "Pops", along with Cody, Juan, and myself, has worked full time this summer on the farm where he has been in charge of vaccinations, transportation and equipment management, and management of our summer boar crop. He is as well-versed in knowing the pedigrees and current status of all of our females as anyone on the farm. Once Chico State starts back up, he will be working 3-4 days/week throughout the fall semester.


Juan Ortega - Juan has been an employee at Ottenwalter Show Pigs since early 2010. He is our Facilities and Maintenance Manager, and ensures that all of our barns are cleaned out/washed out on a daily basis. He is our resident power washer and also our go-to man if anything is broken. He is also in charge of managing and fixing our fleet of port-a-cools (yes we do have a fleet of port-a-cools), which can be quite time consuming. Juan also plays a clarinet in a very popular local band, "El Pacifico" on the weekends.


James Purkey - We've had the pleasure to work with James for a little over two years, and in that time he had really helped us grow and enabled us to do some great things. James grew up quite a ways south of Colusa down in Santa Barbara county, where he has exhibited show pigs successfully his entire life. He is mid way through his career at Chico State, where he is an Animal Science major and also currently is on the livestock judging team. James has represented us at several shows throughout California the past two years, and has brought a great clientele and team of young showmen with him. He most recently helped the Moore Family and Hannah Jackson accomplish some big wins at Santa Barbara County this summer.


Becca Pierachini - Becca has become a vitally important part of our team here in Colusa over the past year and a half. Becca grew up in Potter Valley exhibiting many pigs she purchased from us over the years at the Redwood Empire Fair. A few years ago, Becca began her own breeding project and started selling her own pigs locally for the fair with much success. When she began attending Chico State, we jumped at the opportunity for her to come work with us. Becca oversees our farrowing and care of baby pigs. She has become exceptionally skilled in the art of pulling baby pigs, and has mastered almost every task asked of her in her career here in Colusa. Becca has spent this past summer as a Potter Valley 4-H leader, and she plans to return to work in late August. She is a pre-vet major and hopes to one day be a veterinarian.


Chad Booth - Chad comes to us from Post Falls, Idaho where he grew up raising and showing cattle. Chad has a true passion for breeding and evaluating any type of livestock. He is a recent graduate of Chico State University, where he competed successfully on the livestock judging team. Chad plans to become an ag teacher, and he starts student teaching this fall at Colusa High School. He will be around the farm in his spare time, assisting with nearly all aspects of production. Chad is our "photography specialist", as he has an incredible ability to get pigs posed right during the photo process for our sales. We look forward to having him back again this fall.


For those customers who make the trip to Colusa, CA on any given day you will likely encounter more than one member of our crew. The fact is, managing a show pig business the size and scope of what Ottenwalter Show Pigs has become takes lots of work and dedication from every member of our team, and there is always something getting done no matter the day. We're confident you'll be met with a smile no matter who you encounter, and please feel free to ask them questions. They're very knowledgeable and represent us to the highest level. As we head into what's sure to be a busy fall sales season, the future at Ottenwalter Show Pigs is looking brighter than ever! - Russell Pedrett


Scared Straight
August 10, 2015

by Russell Pedrett


Ottenwalter Show Pigs is sad to report the loss of Scared Straight in early July of 2015 at just one year and 11 months of age. One day in early June, we noticed a small lump below his left eye. It seemed to grow larger on a daily basis, doubling in size after the first week, and it had no response to any antibiotic treatment we tried. After about ten days, Scared Straight's attitude began to decline. His appetite was off, and he had no desire to collect. He also got very hot really easily, and it became a challenge to keep him cool enough throughout the hot summer days. We consulted the advice of our good friend Dr. Tripp in Oklahoma, who was extremely helpful and guided us through the whole treatment process. He gave us a treatment regimen, which we followed for about a week and still saw no improvement. At that point and with Dr. Tripp's guidance, we decided to take him to UC Davis for some X-Rays. There we met Dr. Joe Smith, who also became a great asset and really impressed us with his attention to detail and general concern about Scared Straight's well-being. He insisted that we get a CT Scan done, and after carefully measuring their CT machine and coercing the staff to let him use it, Dr. Smith was able to get it done. Below are the images the CT Scan revealed.



As you can see, the mass had eaten away a large portion of his skull. Two days later, we received the biopsy results, which revealed a type of cancer called Lymphoma. At this point UC Davis presented us with a couple different options, the best of which was a chemo therapeutic treatment called Elspar. We gave the go-ahead and they administered the treatment. After a week's stay in Davis, we brought Scared Straight home with very specific care instructions. He was on a very heavy duty pain medication, prednisone, and Draxxin every 5 days. For the first two weeks, he seemed to be improving -- although the mass never went down, his attitude was a bit brighter. He still had a hard time staying cool enough, and we moved a large 48" portacool directly in front of his pen, which we put ice in each day to lower the temperature of the water. Despite several attempts to collect him, Scared Straight still had no desire to breed and tired out very easily when we took him from his pen. One evening, I found him banging his head back and forth against his gate and he seemed to have lost control over his body. The next morning when I arrived at 7am for work, he had just passed away.


I've worked on hog farms my entire life and been around countless boars over the years, many of which were very special. Anyone who has raised show pigs for any length of time knows that disappointment and death are common occurrences in this business. However, I have to admit losing Scared Straight was the hardest animal for me personally to lose. Sure, his initial pig crop was wildly successful (it included the Reserve Dark Cross Barrow at San Antonio who was also highly successful at the big jackpots in TX this winter). At the present time his second crop is dominating the summer fair season (check our champions page), and we were just getting ready to really turn him loose again this summer. But Scared Straight represented more than just a successful sire to us. He was that gamble we took that deep down we knew wasn't really a gamble. The first boar that we elected to keep at home when we knew we could take him out and win a show and sell him to a boar stud. To me, he represented that next step for our program. That step being Ottenwalter Show Pigs now has the ability to retain boars we believe in and use them across the board within our program with confidence. To add to the difficulty, Scared Straight's demeanor and attitude was truly exceptional, especially for a boar that was sick and being treated on a daily basis. He was as nice to work with as we could have ever asked of any animal. And he truly sired WAY beyond our expectations.


Despite the fact that he's now gone, his genetics will always continue to be a part of our program. We have retained many daughters, of which the first ones are just now hitting the crates. We are expecting several litters again this summer and will have one last crop to offer to the public this fall. We also retained some DNA and plan to begin the cloning process sometime late this summer. At present, we are feeding a Colt 45 son out of Scared Straight's mom that is really looking the part.


Thanks to everyone over the past year who has expressed interest in Scared Straight and his progeny. We sold a good amount of semen this past spring and we anticipate several other breeders nationwide to have impressive pig crops sired by him as well. RIP Scared Straight! -Russell


View Scared Straight in our reference boars section


PEDv and its Impact on us
March 8, 2014

by Russell Pedrett


Here at Ottenwalter Show Pigs, as we heard all of the stories this winter about show pig farms breaking with PEDv, we decided from the start that we weren't going to deal with this virus. We invested in half a dozen foaming mats, a fifty-gallon barrel of Synergize, hundreds of pairs of disposable coveralls, and thousands of plastic boots. We cut down farm traffic to a bare minimum, hung bio security signs all over the premises, and made our customers park a hundred yards away from the nearest barn. At our February 22nd Pig Sale, we watered down our driveway with Synergize and made every single person sanitize their shoes and hands, and then put on plastic boots just for good measure. We stayed away from livestock shows and the sale yard. We made sure none of the feed we were buying contained porcine blood plasma, and we avoided buying semen from boar studs affected by PED. In our mind, we did everything we possibly could to avoid contracting the virus. Yet somehow, some way, it made its way onto our premises. How it did, we truly have no idea. As I write this, our farm is nearly two weeks into our break with PEDv and it has been an exhausting and somewhat depressing month to say the least.


I was working late one evening doing some computer work, and before heading home I thought I would run through the farrowing rooms and check on sows due to farrow. Upon entering our newest farrowing barn, I was immediately stricken by an unusually foul smell. As I looked in at each of the nine litters in that room, all of the pigs were sopping wet with scours and some were vomiting. Most of the scours within the room were watery and whitish-clear in color, although some were an off-yellow. I knew right then and there that we had failed in our effort to keep PEDv off of our farm. The next morning, I did all of the other chores on the farm in different clothes and shoes than I had on the night before, before entering the infected barn. Myself and my boss, Mark, entered the barn with coveralls, plastic boots, plastic gloves, and masks on. Although we weren't certain which other areas of the farm had been exposed, we weren't taking any chances of spreading it further. We took some rectal swab samples to send to the lab at Iowa State and tried to dry off the pigs the best we could. Then we got on the phone and put a plan together with our consulting veterinarians.


For those reading this who have been fortunate enough to avoid the virus, I would strongly recommend investing in some Re-Sorb and Blue lite electrolytes, just to have on hand in case of a break. We broke with PED on a Friday, so it was very difficult to get the supplies we needed until UPS could bring them to us the following Monday. That day we bought up all of the Re-Sorb we could find within a 60 mile radius of our farm. I would also recommend keeping a couple of bottles of gentamycin on your shelves, as we went through several bottles in a matter of days after the break. Four-Star Veterinary Service was very helpful to us, as not only did they have the products we needed, but also they were very knowledgeable and familiar with what we needed to do and how we needed to use those products. We went ahead and weaned seven of the nine litters in that particular farrowing room, ranging in age from nine to fifteen days old. We left the two three-day old litters on the sows, but took away their supplemental milk and replaced with Re-Sorb. We could not believe how much Re-Sorb the pigs drank! Seventy baby pigs drank gallons and gallons for several days, as we tried to introduce them to feed. It seemed like it took forever for their scours to subside -- in fact, some of these original pigs to break with PED were still scouring twelve days after their break. Another challenge we faced was keeping the scouring pigs warm. Since they were so wet from scours, they would all just pile up on top of each other. We set our nursery temperature to 90 degrees and placed mats over the grate flooring with heat lamps on them. The pigs still piled on the mats shivering, and we found ourselves constantly flipping the mats over to expose the dry side for the poor pigs. Finally, we found the pelleted shavings product that we use called Dry Den to be extremely helpful in keeping the pigs dry. We just sprinkled it on the mats and it helped to dry things out and keep the pigs warm.


Through strict farm bio security, we were able to keep the virus out of one of our other farrowing barns that had an even younger set of pigs in it for six days. Once that barn broke, we started the whole process over again, this time weaning five to twelve day old pigs and we left two litters of one and two-day old pigs on the sows. Between both farrowing barns, we've managed to keep our death loss at 13 total pigs out of about 120 head. Our consulting veterinarian believes that we may have contracted the "weaker" strain of PEDv since our death loss has been so minimal.


On the morning of Day 3 into our break, we decided to go ahead and infect the entire farm. The method we used worked extremely well. While we were weaning the infected baby pigs, we held them over a bucket and gently pressed their abdomens. This left us with quite a bit of watery fecal material, which we added water to and then filtered to get all of the solid matter out. We then put that liquid into spray bottles and sprayed every sow's nose with it on the entire farm. To infect our pens of growing pigs, we took the rubber mats out of our farrowing crates and sprayed them with this solution, and then threw the mats into their pens. One observation we found very interesting was it seemed like it took two full days between the time of exposure and the onset of symptoms for our sows, whereas it took one day or even less for the growing pigs to show symptoms. For those who are wondering, the symptoms are not easy to miss. As we walked through the barns during those few days, essentially every animal on the farm was either scouring, vomiting, or both -- sows and little pigs alike. We paid special attention to our sows who were closest to farrowing, and made sure we saw symptoms. There were several we had to re-expose to make sure they had contracted the virus. By this point, nearly all of our growing pigs were scouring badly, and many of the pens throughout the barns looked pretty worse for wear. We purchased two additional water medicators and got them set up throughout the barns. We ran one 2 lb. package of blue lite per gallon of stock solution through the medicators, and in addition we added 128cc/gallon of gentamycin. The pigs went through this rather quickly and it seemed to help quite a bit. As the days went by, we continued to work our tails off making sure all the animals on the farm were taken care of, being most attentive to the young pigs on the sows and in the nurseries. After a week or more, most of the scouring subsided, and as I write this two weeks later there remains only a handful of pigs on the farm that still have some scouring.


Our next task at hand was to make a couple very important decisions: 1) How and when do we start letting our customers and peers within the industry know about our break, and 2) What do we do about the twelve show pigs the Ottenwalter grand kids had on feed for the NJSA Western Regional coming up in three weeks? For us, decision number one was far easier to make than the latter. We have always believed in being "up front" with people in this business, and in regards to PED we believe that trait has become more important than ever. We began spreading the word and also developed an announcement that we posted to both our website and our Facebook page. Both of our consulting veterinarians believed it would be safe to go ahead with our April 6th Show Pig Sale as scheduled, providing we communicate well with our customers and also offer to house any of their purchases until a negative PED test could be provided, should they so desire. To our delight, many of our customers have been pleased to learn the animals they will be purchasing are now going to come with the added benefit of immunity for the upcoming show season. However, we still had a very tough call to make: Do we attend the Western Regional with the Ottenwalter grand kids' projects? At this point, their twelve show pigs had been off site at our isolation show facility three miles away, where the kids had been feeding and working with them. To our knowledge none of those hogs exhibited any symptoms of PED, and they were easily the best set of show gilts and barrows we had ever put together for that event. Furthermore, it was Makayla's first year showing (she is five years old) and both her and Lexi had put months of hard work and effort into their projects. After consulting some our closest friends within the industry and after much debate among our entire crew at Ottenwalter Show Pigs, we decided it best to stay home. Should any of our show string have any exposure to the virus, we did not want to be responsible for sharing it with others. More importantly, whether they had exposure to the virus or not, the last thing we wanted to be was a poor example to others who may not have fully understood our situation. After our decision, my boss Mark told me hauling those beautiful show gilts out to our isolation gilt pool was one of the hardest things he's ever had to do. I agreed completely.


In closing, it has no doubt been an interesting year in the show pig business that so far, has come with more than its fair share of disappointments. But on a more optimistic note, I am here to tell you that PED is not the end of the world. Through diligence and hard work we've kept our losses to a bare minimum, and if someone were to come visit the farm today without knowing our situation, there would be no visual indication that anything ever went wrong. There's no question there remains much to be learned about this virus and how it's going to affect the way we raise hogs. However, I believe the biggest obstacle we face in the show pig industry, especially here in California, is the level of responsibility we take as both breeders and as exhibitors at events. For me, it has been very interesting to note the actions of others within the industry and quite honestly I have been very disappointed in those of some. Breeders- let's step up and be positive examples for our youth buying and exhibiting show pigs. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of PEDv and if you are not sure about your own status, have your animals tested. Hogs that are positive and in the shedding phase of the virus should not go to shows or be sold to unknowing buyers until they are confirmed negative. I realize there are many families out there who have a lot invested into their kids' show animals. I can assure you the breeders of those show animals have even more invested and far more to lose. Please don't misunderstand my message -- I'm all for showing pigs, as that's the business we're in and why we do what we do. However, knowingly "sharing" PED with others would not only be morally wrong, but it benefits nobody in the long run. If we can all do our best to act responsibly and to inform everyone - breeders and youth exhibitors alike, our chances of keeping this virus under control will be much greater.  Then we can get back to showing hogs.



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