Raising livestock is a viable business for many people, but Copperas Cove student Abby McWhorter does it for other reasons.
“People sometimes do it for the money, but I do it because it’s a lot of fun and I love the animals,” said McWhorter, 10, who is entering her pigs in the county fair.
On Monday at the high school, McWhorter and other students from the Copperas Cove chapter of the National FFA Organization gathered for last-minute preparations for the Coryell County Youth Fair in Gatesville. Certain events at the fair began last weekend and concludes Saturday.
Student leaders and instructors of the agricultural education program went over the fair schedule and important fair etiquette such as how to act, dress and treat the animals during competition.
“No tennis shoes or T-shirts. Be presentable and show that you care,” said Neal Schwausch, one of the program’s instructors.
“And remember that you are representing the Cove FFA,” said instructor Kenneth Barnett, adding to Schwausch’s comment.
The importance of accountability and responsibility were particularly stressed to the young contestants.
“Our program is designed to teach leadership, build character and instill a work ethic in these students,” Schwausch said.
Several of the students said they’ve learned a lot from being in the club.
“I’ve learned how to be responsible and how to be a good sport while competing against my friends,” Rebecka Downing, 16, said.
For others, the experience of raising animals is becoming ingrained.
“It has become second nature for me to take the time to care for my animals,” 16-year-old Daniel West said.
Both Barnett and Schwausch, who have a combined 49 years as county agriculture teachers, will coordinate the students’ activities at the fair. This means loading and hauling their larger animals to Gatesville, helping groom the animals and carefully monitoring their feeding regiments.
“We feed them differently from regular pigs,” said student Tori Schwausch, 12, about the special care her pigs receive. “They get supplements and high quality feed. That’s why show pigs have more muscle.”
The preparation of these animals is not unlike that of human athletes entering a body building contest, Barnett said. They even have the animals on an exercise program using a specially designed treadmill.
Judging for the various animals began on Wednesday at the Gatesville Civic Center. In addition to showing their entries, students of the Cove FFA also will run a fair concession stand from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, which will benefit the Coryell County Youth Fair scholarship fund.