It was all about the pigs in Brandon.
Manitoba’s Hog and Livestock Days, more commonly known as Hog Days, returned to the Keystone Centre Dec. 14. The biennial show was last held in 2015.
The pork-specific trade show was up about 25 exhibitors, bringing participation up to 135 booths.
“In two years, a lot of changes can take place with companies and I think that it’s amazing that we’ve had 135 this year and people come and ask if they could be part of the 2019 show, so that’s very good,” organizing committee member Rhonda Coupland said.
Participants and exhibitors ranged from within the province to as far away as Alberta and into the U.S.
As in previous years, the day split exhibitors between equipment providers, service providers and resources and education such as ongoing research.
Coupland says the split has stayed constant between shows although topics of conversation — such as PEDv this year — might shift as industry issues change.
“The purpose of Hog Days is to put everybody in a building with all of the industry people and all of the exhibitors who have something to offer,” she said.
Hog Days has dropped from two days to one day in recent years. The change is less flexible for exhibitors, Coupland said, but argues that the current format is more time effective and concentrates turnout.
“We found (with) two days, by the second day it was very quiet, so I think going to one day has been really positive,” she said.
Bringing home the bacon
Producers once again vied for bragging rights, plus trophies and prize money, during the event’s pork quality competition.
Thirty-two entries came in from across southern Manitoba, more than 2015.
“Normally, we get 30 or less, but this year we surpassed that and we are very fortunate,” said Ron Bazylo, industry development specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.
Among other areas, carcasses were evaluated on weight, back fat, quality of the loin eye prime cut, colour, texture and marbling. Judging is blind to eliminate bias.
“The people who enter this competition, the quality is extremely high because they’re only allowed to enter two hogs and, of course, they pick the best two in the barn,” Bazylo said.
Waldheim Colony near Elie took the top prize with 70 points out of a possible 100, followed closely by Barrickman Colony near St. François Xavier with 68 points.
Barrickman Colony’s Mike Hofer was visibly excited by the result.
“It’s awesome. It feels awesome. I just don’t know what to say,” he said.
Waldheim Colony was not available for comment.
Miami’s Skyview Colony, meanwhile, claimed third with 66 points out of 100.
“It’s a show and it’s a bit of excitement involved and it’s fun, actually, to do it and participate, even if you don’t win,” Skyview Colony’s Peter Hofer said.
Entering the competition was a last-minute decision for the Miami colony, he added.
Yield points, weight points, belly points and texture all rated high this year, judge Bob McKay told entrants, although colour, marbling and loin eye points significantly brought scores down.
Prize money gave $5,000 to first, $3,000 to second and $2,000 for third-place carcasses.
Winners will only see half of that money however. The other half is earmarked for a charity of the winner’s choice. Boundary Trails Health Centre, Winnipeg Children’s Hospital and St. Boniface General Hospital will receive $1,000, $1,500 and $2,500 respectively.
“That’s what we’ve been doing for the last 15 years when we’re winning stuff like that,” Mike Hofer said. “It goes to Children’s Hospital.”
Skyview Colony chose its nearest major hospital to receive the funds.
“They also receive a trophy and they’re fairly large trophies,” Bazylo said. “They keep these trophies and they can show them off in their operations and I’ve seen them on various operations and they’re pretty proud of their accomplishment.”
The prize-winning carcasses will also go to charity. Thea Dennis, executive director for Samaritan’s Purse, collected a voucher for the meat Dec. 14.
Attention now turns to Hog Days 2019, also in Brandon.