Nebraskans win big at Heartland Showpig Shootout |

Nebraskans win big at Heartland Showpig Shootout

Story & Photos by Robyn Scherer, M.AgR. | Staff Reporter

The sounds of pigs can be heard before you even enter the building. The smell of fresh shavings is evident, and youth of all ages are seen prepping their pigs to be shown. This is not a county fair, however. It’s the Heartland Showpig Shootout.

This show, held in Kearney, Neb., May 18-20, brought in showmen from across five states to compete for $10,000 in prize money. The students competed in breed and market classes, and the champions for each division competed for the $2,000 grand prize.

The overall Grand Champion was Sam Smoot, from Eaton, Iowa, with his crossbred hog. The Reserve Grand Champion was Brandon Wallander from Berthand, Neb., who took home $1,500 with his crossbred hog.

Wallander was also the overall Nebraska Grand Champion, and earned himself another $1,000. The Nebraska champion has to be a pig that is bred, born, fed and owned by a Nebraskan.

The Heartland Showpig Shootout celebrated its third anniversary this year. The event was created when members of the Buffalo County Fairboard, Kearney Visitors Bureau and local swine producers decided they wanted to put together a large show.

The show has one of the largest payouts for a jackpot show, and brought in exhibitors from Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.

“The Heartland Showpig Shootout is estimated by many swine showmen to soon be the largest swine show around. This event not only offers the largest payout for a swine show in the Midwest, but offers a great learning experience to all youth involved. Shows like the Heartland Showpig Shootout offer excellent family time and also offer a way to teach our youth many things that they cannot learn in school. Everyone involved with this show is very proud of everything it stands for,” according to Ron Loeffelholz, Chairman of the show.

He continued, “I thought the show this year was really good. The quality was really good, even though our numbers were down.”

The show paid out through four places in every class, with a fourth place finish enough to win back the entry fee. Local businesses and breeders support the show, so that the payout can be as high as it is. The sponsors believe in youth showing livestock, because of the responsibility it instills in the students.

“I think it takes a lot of responsibility to raise these animals. The youth are taking care of their livestock, and going to places and meeting other people. We sell show pigs ourselves, and we hear how strongly people feel about having kids involved in something with responsibility and involved with people. It’s really important. This is also a family function for a lot of them, and those type of things are going away in time,” said Loeffelholz.

The responsibility of showing pigs is not new for Linden Kaliff of York, Neb. Kaliff took home the title of Champion Yorkshire and Champion Purebred with his Yorkshire barrow. The barrow that he showed was purchased from Hirschfield Livestock in Benedict, Neb.

To prepare for the show, Kaliff spends time each and every day with his pigs. “We bought them at a sale back in April. Then we get them home, and tame them down. We are working with them every day, walking them and training them. We brush them and take care of them,” Kaliff said.

He continued, “Feed is very important. We hand feed them so they have the right schedule every time so they don’t miss a day.”

Kaliff has been showing pigs for eight years, and also raises pigs of his own. He is an active member of 4-H and FFA, and the pigs are his ssupervised agricultural experience (SAE) project.

Kaliff owns one spot sow and two crossbred sows, and breds and farrows his own pigs. He uses artificial insemination, and chooses the matings that he wants for his sows.

When the pigs are born, Kaliff chooses the ones he wants to keep, and the rest are either sold as show pigs to other local showmen, as feeder pigs at the sale barn, or the family feeds them out and sells them as fed pigs.

His family got into showing pigs after tending a friend’s animals. “We had a friend who was going on vacation and asked us to stop by and take care of their pigs. That’s when we got into showing. Then we moved out to the country in 2005, and got started on our own,” he said.

Kaliff, who is going to be a junior this year, enjoys raising and showing pigs. “It’s a learning experience. I like watching them grow and seeing the outcome of the decisions I make. It’s a big responsibility with everything you have to take care of. It’s fun to watch them be born, and to watch them from the crates and then you eventually get to show them,” he said.

Kaliff shows at jackpots all summer, and then competes at the county and state fair, as well as the World Pork Expo. He travels around to shows with his little sister, Lauren, 11, who also shows pigs, his little brother Logan, 14, and his mother, Danielle.

Danielle Kaliff is also involved in the swine industry, as she works in the office at A Cut Above Sires, a showpig boar stud company in York, Neb.

She has worked there for six years, and got into the business after the owner, Jason Hirschfield, joked with her about applying for a job there.

“We have known that family our whole lives, and it worked out great for me,” said Danielle Kaliff.

Kaliff travels with her kids to the shows, and loves to watch them compete. “I always feel like as long as we do the work at home and they are prepared, they are ready. They have to be prepared with their questions and with that pig. They know what they are doing. If we are ready, we are fine,” she said.

She added, “We love going, and we have a lot of fun. In the summer when the kids are out of school, you won’t see them all day because they are out with the pigs.”

In addition to raising pigs, the family also farms corn. Kim Kaliff, Linden’s father, runs the farming operation. In the future, Linden Kaliff hopes to go to college and study agriculture or animal science, and hopes to eventually end up back on the farm, raising pigs.

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