Written by Whitney Nichols. Media by Ethan Maurer and Whitney Nichols.
Livestock is more than just farm animals. It’s an industry that expresses the true meaning of what a good day and a bad day looks like out in the barn. As an owner, you learn from your mistakes and not only become a better showman, but also a better companion to the four-legged animal next to you. Growing up on a pig farm, hard work and dedication is something that I learned rather quickly. Looking back, if it was not for livestock, pigs in general, I am not sure where I would be at in my life.
Being in the show ring is a whirlwind, to say the least. As a little girl, I thought pigs would be just a short stage in my life, but it was not. They are a part of me and a part of my family. They are so special. There is something about being a part of an animal’s life, no matter the breed. Pigs bring out something special in me as a person, just like how dogs can easily bring out something unique and interesting in an individual. Pigs bring out the true side of me. They show my fears, along with my strengths. They know what I am feeling and they somehow find a way to protect me from harm’s way. Pigs are truly a unique creature, and just a small part of what makes livestock is special.
The summer-long work is never easy. For any showman, there is no short-cut. You find yourself being in the barn from sunrise until sundown. The relationships you build with not only your animals but your family, friends, and even people you never thought you would know, is mind-boggling. Livestock is something you never want to take for granted. The life lessons that can be learned and the industry itself is truly indescribable. You soon find that it is not all about the banners and ribbons; it is about who you become as a person.
As a little girl, my early memories of growing up on a pig farm was my father carrying me out to the barn to feed and walk. He did all the hard work while I got to goof around and make silly faces at the pigs. There was something special about being out in the barn. The times where I was the same height as the pig, and they would walk right up to me, touch my nose with theirs, was so indescribably fun and unforgettable. Now, having them take marshmallows out of my hand while giving them some much-needed love is something that still touches my heart.
Livestock has a unique way of opening your heart up and showing the world who you truly are as an individual. It prepares you in a way that you never thought it would ever prepare you. It teaches you how to compete the right way. It has taught me as an individual how to carry myself at very critical times in my life. It tears you down. It damages you, but then, it picks you right back up again. It makes you stronger. It makes you a better you. Also, it reminds you to breathe. Crazy, right?
It is amazing to see what one industry can do when it comes to a loved one. The livestock industry has somehow brought me closer to my father in a way that I never thought was even possible. My father and I are so much alike that it is truly scary–it is even scarier out in the barn. We get on each other’s nerves constantly, but that is what makes our relationship strong. He is the one that brought me into this unbelievable industry, and I am forever grateful for that. He may be the right-hand man in the pig barn, but he will forever be my dad.
Livestock has given me so many memories throughout my life that are hard to describe. It has taught me right from wrong. It has given me the opportunities that I never thought I would ever have in my lifetime. It has given me tears of joy throughout times in my life when I most needed it. It has made me stronger in ways that I never thought were possible. It is built me. All-in-all, my passion for livestock has made me the person that I am today, and I never want it to end.