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Sisters and 4-H’ers June and Jenna Bahe of rural Stanley are looking forward to showing pigs for their second year, although the livestock shows will be shorter than they were in the past owing to precautions aiming to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two weigh-ins would have been needed to measure the rate at which the animals gain weight.

“There was going to be a (beginning) weigh-in, but then that got canceled, so I don’t think there’s going to be a rate of gain (contest),” said June Bahe, age 11.

“We were looking forward to that show,” her sister Jenna, 13, chimed in with a laugh.

Their dad, Joe Bahe, described the changes in procedure at this year’s fair, referring to a recent conversation with 4-H County Youth Coordinator Michele Kelly.

“Instead of taking the pigs up on Monday and them staying all week, they’re going to bring them up the day before the show in the evening, show them the next morning, then they go home right away so the pigs will only be there 24 hours where usually they’re there for a week,” Bahe said. “The girls kind of like to be there the entire time, and I don’t think that’s possible this year.”

“Aw,” said one of the girls.

“Just to limit exposure, to keep less people around the fairgrounds,” he said.

Each of the sisters and members of the Scott Hotshots 4-H Club has raised five pigs this year and has gotten to know their personalities. They also pondered what they want to raise next year.

Although they missed out on the last quarter of chatting with their classmates at the Oelwein Community Schools due to the pandemic, they knew of many fellow 4-H members who are raising various livestock.

Their piglets, born in early February, weighed some 40 pounds when the girls got them in March. Now about five months old, they are up to 240 pounds, both the barrows and the gilts. June expects they might be 280 pounds by fair week, which will be July 21-25.

In daily check-ins, the girls replenish the swine feed — a corn, soy and mineral mixture, their water and shovel their bedding, which they use as a litter box.

On the average it takes approximately 350 pounds of feed to produce 100 pounds of live hog, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Joe recalled learning in college that a pig eats some 660 pounds between birth and market weight.

The girls socialize with the animals by petting them, and have noticed the animals respond to their presence.

“Whenever we go up to check on them, they’ll always run up to us, or if they’re not awake yet, they’ll wake up right when they hear the door,” June said.

“They’re really curious and started chewing the chain on our gate and they got out,” Jenna said. “They just kind of stayed together, we put them back in our hoop building. Our dad helped us.”

They chose pigs in part because the breeder didn’t have enough goats, Joe had raised pigs in the past and they had the facility setup for it.

Next year, the girls want to try raising bunnies (June) or sheep (Jenna).

“He said sheep are between goats and pigs,” Jenna said.

“They’re not as curious as pigs,” Joe said. “Goats can get crazy at times. Sheep are a very calm animal. June always had a fascination with rabbits. They’ve all got a different personality.”