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— With seven weeks until the Benton County Fair, planned for Sept. 15-18, Decatur 4-H members are busy getting their projects ready for the competition.

The club met on Saturday and worked on craft projects for the fair in the morning. In the afternoon, the club went on a Ãfarm tourî in which 4-H members got to practice presenting their projects to the rest of the group.

Destiny Meek, soon to be in the first grade, showed the club her goats, and sisters Jayme and Haley Burden showed their cattle and hogs. Jayme has two heifers, and Haley has two pigs to exhibit in the fair this September.

Haley, who is entering sixth grade in Decatur schools this fall, said she started showing sheep when she was about five years old and has been showing hogs for the past five years.

At last fallÃ-s Benton County Fair, Haley won a championship in the breeding class and a reserve championship in the market class with her Poland China hog, Minnie. Now Minnie is pregnant and due to have babies sometime in the next several weeks.

This year Haley will be showing Bella and Sweetie in the fair. Bella is a Hampshire hog, and Sweetie is a Spot hog. Both of the pigs are gilts, or female hogs that have never had babies. Once they have babies, female hogs are called sows.

Haley will be showing her hogs in market classes, as well as commercial gilt classes and registered breed classes. Right now Haley is working withthe two hogs once a day, but as it gets closer to fair time, she will start working with them twice a day.

She spends time every day teaching Bella and Sweetie to walk calmly around the arena in whichever direction she guides them. She is also working on teaching the pigs to keep their heads up while they walk, explaining that this is one thing the judges are looking for. Hogs are not lead by a halter or a lead rope, but guided by taps on their shoulders.

To show in the fair, the hogs have to weigh between 170 and 270 pounds. Bella was born in February and had a head start, but Sweetie was born in March and needs a little extra feed, so Haley separates the two during feeding time to make sure they both stay on target to weigh within the limit.

ÃSo far I think theyÃ-re both going to be good pigs,î Haley said.

Jayme, who will be a ninth grader at Decatur High School this fall, is showing to two heifers, Betty and Daisy Mae, in the fair this year.

Like her younger sister, Jayme started her career in the show ring with lambs. She has been showing at the Benton County Fair since she was eight, but last fall was her first experience with exhibiting cattle.

Betty is a one-year-old Black Angus heifer. Jayme bought her last spring from veteran 4-HÃ-er Ethan Holly. Daisy Mae is an Angus, Hereford and Limousine cross. Jayme will be showing both cows in commercial heifer classes.

To get Betty and Daisy Mae ready for the fair, Jayme has to exercise and feed them to keep them in top condition. Jayme also practices grooming the two heifers for the competition and has taught them to walk calmly on a lead rope. Betty has a more laid-back personality, while Daisy Mae is a littler jumpier, Jayme said..

ÃSheÃ-s still a work in progress,î Jayme said.

Haley said her favorite part of showing is answering the judgeÃ-s question.

ÃLast year the judge asked me what I would change about my pig,î she said. Haley replied that she would like to see her hog act more calm in the show ring.

Jayme said her favorite part of showing in the fair is taking a week off from school, although it can be challenging to catch up when she return to classes.

The two sisters agree they are learning skills that will help them in their adult careers.

Jayme said she wants to be a veterinarian, and learning about and working around animals will certainly help her with her goals.

Haley is also interested in becoming a vet, or possibly a pharmacist or optometrist.

For more information on Decatur 4-H, contact Terry Burden or the county extension office.

News, Pages 1, 2 on 07/29/2009

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