- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - On Saturday afternoon, about 80 squealing young pigs were unloaded from a truck and taken to their new homes.

The swine are part of the Pig Squeal program, a 4-H program that teaches young people about raising livestock.

“This is just like our Chick Chain and Market Steer programs,” Colbert County Extension Coordinator Danny McWilliams said. “There will be a couple hundred kids in the state who are doing this.”

McWilliams said each participant will be given two castrated male hogs, or “barrows,” that they will raise. They will keep the pigs until April 29, the day of the Pig Squeal show and auction at the North Alabama State Fairgrounds in Muscle Shoals.

“We’re teaching them how to raise commercial hogs,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of that around here anymore.”

Four pigs will be going home with 10-year-old Grace Anne Underwood and her 9-year-old sister, Olivia Underwood. Grace Anne participated in the program last year. This will be the first time for her sister.

“It was pretty difficult, but I had a pretty good time doing it,” she said. “When I first started working with him, he was really stubborn, but after about a week he was fine.”

Grace Anne is in the 4-H program at Cherokee Elementary School. While she knew she was raising a hog that would eventually be slaughtered, Grace Ann admitted she cried when her hog was prepared for processing.

Grace Anne said she keeps her hogs at her grandfather’s farm, which has some old facilities for raising hogs.

Her grandfather, Bruce Morgan, said he used to run a commercial hog operation in the 1970s when Bryan Foods had a packing plant in Westpoint, Mississippi. He got out of the business in 1995.

“I really wanted my granddaughter to see if she could raise some pigs,” he said. “Her hog topped her class.”

Grace Ann said she has raised goats, chickens, cows, horses, dogs and cats.

Morgan said 9 years old, the youngest someone can participate in the program, is not too young to learn about raising livestock.

“PaPaw is here to help,” he said. “When I was that age, practically everybody worked on a farm.”

Claire Daniel, 9, was given special permission last year to participate at age 8. She’s in the 4-H program at New Bethel Elementary School.

“I thought it would be a good experience to raise pigs,” Daniel said of raising her first hogs. “It’s pretty easy.”

She said the hogs are kept at a farm owned by her grandfather, Phillip Smallwood.

“I like to feed them and pet them and all that,” Claire said. “Their favorite treats are Oreos.”

Claire is also involved in the 4-H Chick Chain and Market Steer programs. When she grows up, Claire said she wants to be a farmer.

Her mother, Courtney Daniel, said the program was a good experience for her daughter.

“She’s learned a lot about responsibility,” Daniel said.

Claire was named the Grand Supreme Champion last year in the Chick Chain program.

McWilliams said each participant had to attend a mandatory meeting to learn about raising the hogs. The students pay $150 for the two hogs, and have to cover the cost of their feed.

In April, they will show and sell one of their hogs. The other hog is theirs to keep.

“We will do a couple of home visits with them during the project,” McWilliams said. “We’ll have a showmanship clinic to teach them how to show it.”

Students from Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limeston and Morgan counties picked up their pigs Saturday at the Lauderdale County Extension Office.

McWilliams said he picked up the pigs Saturday morning from a producer in Tuscaloosa.

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Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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