Longtime Sacramento resident Julie Hicks said she and her two sisters have shown livestock at state and county fairs since she was young. Now she and her father, Russell Hicks, raise their own show pigs on her farm in Sacramento.
“Sam’s Pig Place” got started around 2012, Hicks said, when her nephew decided he wanted to start showing livestock.
“That’s the reason we kind of started it is because he wanted to show and we were all excited about it because we grew up doing that, and then now, it’s become a business for my dad and I,” she said. “We love it. It’s a family tradition. We love the livestock industry. We love working with the animals.”
Hicks said she currently has 21 adult pigs on the farm, all of which have been shown. One of her boars, Brutus, won at the Kentucky State Fair in 2018.
Hicks said he weighed 358 pounds when he was shown, but now that he is full grown, he weighs between 500 and 600 pounds. She also has a new litter of babies that were born just this month.
The job, she said, is a lot of work. It takes a lot of time and consistency every day throughout the year. The pigs are kept on a specific diet and fed and exercised and trained daily.
They are bred during fall months, August-October to have their babies between December and February. They are then trained and worked with to be shown in the summer. Typically, she said, the pigs are shown during their first year.
“It’s something that you have to do every day — morning and night. They’re animals, so they have to be fed morning and night; they have to be checked on. In this kind of extreme heat, I go down sometimes two or three times a day to check on them,” Hicks said. “What makes it work is that consistency — being there every day. The animals get exercise, they get baths, they’re trained. They’re sort of like an athlete. You can’t just take a pig out of a pin and go to a show and expect to do well.”
The part of her business that brings in the most cash flow, however, is selling meat hogs since not all of her pigs are show pigs, she said. This part of the industry has been heavily affected by COVID-19 with many slaughter facilities being shut down, which results in farms keeping more pigs than they might have anticipated.
COVID-19 has had other effects on the industry as well, with buyers not being able to pick up their pigs and farms having to continue paying for supplies to keep them longer than usual.
Hicks said she would normally be working with some of the pigs now to get them ready for the Kentucky State Fair and Indiana State fair, but due to the virus, many of the shows have been canceled.
She said she would normally attend at least four shows a year in Kentucky, Indiana and Georgia. She plans to attend a show in Iowa starting next year as well.
Currently, Hicks said she has been using the down time to do maintenance work on the farm and updating pig crates. She said she also works with 4-H youth throughout the year helping with livestock shows and skill building.
“I’m just really interested in the industry and keeping it alive,” she said.
Christie Netherton, cnetherton @mcleannews.com, 270-691-7360