Competing at the National Western Stock Show is a dream come true for many young showmen. The historic venue showcases an area where livestock showmen have competed for more than 100 years, and young people marvel at the opportunity.
For many students from Nebraska, this dream came true this year. They traveled from all over the state to compete at one of the oldest shows in the country.
One of those students was Thane Motis of Geneva, Neb. He exhibited the Grand Champion Berkshire hog, with a hog that he raised on his family’s farm.
Motis got into showing hogs when he was younger, when he went around with his family’s friends showing.
“My dad bought me four sows as a surprise, and the Berkshire that I showed was out of one of those sows,” he said.
Showing a hog that you raised is a big deal for many students, and makes the win that much more enjoyable. “It feels pretty good to know that you beat a lot of high dollar hogs with one that you raised,” he stated. “It was pretty cool. With it being my last year, getting to experience that was a pretty cool deal.”
In order to prepare the hog, which he called Tuition, the whole family was involved. I was at college, and so my little brother really helped me out a lot by walking him every day. I came home on the weekend and worked with him then,” he said.
The hog was walked a half mile each day, and washed, oiled and brushed on a regular basis. When the family arrives at stock show, they knew they had a great one.
“The night before the show, there was a guy that said he looked really good, and they had a champion Berk before. I knew he was good, but you never know what will happen,” Motis said.
This was his eighth year competing at the stock show, and it was also his final year. His hog sold for $3,000, and the money that he raised will be used to pay for his college tuition. Motis is currently attending school at Southeast Community College in Beatrice, Neb., where he is studying agricultural business.
After college, he plans to work for an agricultural financing company, and continue to raise show hogs on the side.
Another student who found success at the NWSS was Jesse Hoblyn of York, Neb. Hoblyn exhibited the Grand Champion Chester White hog. Although he did not personally raise this hog, it was born and raised in his home town.
The breeder of the hog was Jason Hershel, who is the FFA adviser at York High School, where Hoblyn is a sophomore.
He first got into showing pigs just three years ago. “We have always shown cattle, and I wanted something new,” he said.
He has shown several different breeds, but the Chester White breed is his favorite. “Chesters are one of the powerhouse breeds. They can give crossbreds a run for their money now,” he explained.
This was his first year showing pigs at the stock show, and was very excited to be there. “Denver is my personal favorite show. I love the atmosphere and the people, and getting to see the people. I also love the stockyards, and I love to see the bulls on display,” he said.
He continued, “The pig thing is an honor. There are a lot of people who didn’t get the draw and didn’t get to go. I felt like a chosen one to get to show.”
Hoblyn was one of the students who made the sale, and his hog brought $4,000. “That sale was really cool. I liked the atmosphere and the buyers. It was really neat to be a part of that,” he said.
Winning the Chester White Division was really special for Hoblyn, who had never shown at stock show before. “It was an amazing feeling. It summed up my hard work and time and effort. It was quite an honor. I know a lot of kids who show their whole life and don’t make it,” he stated.
In order to make him the best show hog he could be, Hoblyn worked with him every single day. “As soon as I got him, I had to get him used to me and used to the barn and other pigs. I walked him every day, and washed him every other day. I also conditioned his skin every day,” he said.
He continued, “There was a lot of tender loving care that went into the show hog. It’s a lot harder to raise one for stock show than it is for the county fair. In the summer I usually get to walk outside, and this year I had to walk him in our cattle barn because it was too cold outside. It was more difficult getting him trained but it worked.”
Even though working with the hog was more challenging, Hoblyn was committed to making it work. “My biggest challenge with him was to keep his head up, and keep him driving. He was kind of lazy. If they really don’t want to move they won’t. It all starts at the barn at home. If you aren’t walking those pigs a lot at home they won’t walk or cooperate in the show ring. It takes time and effort and patience,” he explained.
Hard work is not something that Hoblyn is scared of, and serving as the Vice President of his FFA chapter has helped him to gain the work ethic that he has.
“FFA helps me a lot. You know, through showing livestock you get to meet a lot of people, then you bring in FFA and you get to meet so many people and take you so many places. We are currently working on proficiency things, which will help me with jobs, interviews, and things like that,” he said.
Hoblyn plans to attend a community college to judge livestock, and if he likes it, he wants to transfer to a four-year school to finish his degree in agricultural business. He then wants to return home to help his family.
In additional to raising and showing hogs, the family also raises show cattle. “I love being able to have this cow/calf herd, to be able to breed and raise your own stock. I love buying these heifers and making them into cows and then donor cows, and getting their progeny out on the ground. It’s a cool circle,” he said.
The top eight champion animals total sales exceeded last year’s total by $4,500. The highest bids went to the Grand Champion Steer, which sold for $100,000 and the Grand Champion Hog, which sold for $47,500, nearly doubling last year’s bid.
The money invested supports the youth that raised the animal as they plan for their future needs for their college educations. In addition, a portion of the proceeds support the National Western Scholarship Trust, which funds scholarships in agriculture and rural medicine at colleges throughout Colorado and Wyoming. Last year, 74 students received funds to aid their education. ❖