Falcon Farmers: a typical day to raise a pig

Falcon Farmers: a typical day to raise a pig
Posted on 02/13/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Falcon Farmers: a typical day to raise a pigBy MIA LI RODRIGUEZ
Junior, Los Fresnos High School

A hundred years ago, Farmer Joe woke up to a rooster’s crow and walked to the barn to feed his pig.

Today, Los Fresnos High School junior Mallory Buendia wakes up to her iPhone’s alarm and drives to school every morning to feed her pig.

It's a routine many students do every day, weekends and holidays included. 

At LFHS and several other schools in the Valley, students in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program take agriculture-related classes, such as Wildlife and Fisheries, and get first-hand experience rearing livestock. Students raise a variety of farm animals, such as sheep, cattle, and goats, many of which are housed at the LFHS agriculture barn.

Mallory is raising a six-month-old spotted Poland China pig named Phoebe. She and other FFA students also receive various opportunities to participate in livestock shows and rodeos in the Rio Grande Valley. They learn about transporting, showing, and eventually selling the animals, which teaches students the agribusiness side of raising animals – a very practical application of their classes.

For students like Mallory who are interested in studying in agriculture and veterinary fields, FFA proves a fantastic program.

The swine section of the LFHS agriculture barn is located in the rear past the sheep and cattle pens. When visitors arrive, pigs perk up and began to grunt. Phoebe may be the loudest grunter.

“I spoil her,” Mallory said.

Indeed Phoebe acts like a bossy queen as she impatiently waits for her afternoon meal. Phoebe crowded near the gate and pokes her snout at visitors. At about two feet tall and weighing 234 pounds, black-and-pink Phoebe exceeds the small, white piglet many people expect from Charlotte’s Web.

Pig sizes vary greatly depending on the breed as well as purpose. Phoebe is already reaching maximum weight – not surprising considering that she gains two pounds a day.

Mallory will cut back on Phoebe's food to keep her at a proper weight for the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show in Mercedes in March.

After leading her to the trough which Mallory filled with three pounds of feed pellets topped with a syringe of a brown liquid vitamins, Phoebe contentedly munched away and walked back to the pen.

Grabbing a shovel, Mallory scoops up manure, rakes the ground, fills holes, and disinfects the edges of the pen with a Clorox and water spray to help prevent flies and odors. LFHS provides the students with hay and dirt, but students must take responsibility for the care of their animals.

“The advisors help with any questions, but most of it is up to you,” Mallory said.

Mallory gave Phoebe a 20-minute walk, guiding her at the neck with a stick to keep her head up. This daily routine ensures that Phoebe will have stamina and the proper form that judges look for in show pigs, as well as physical traits such as a broad chest and large rear.

These characteristics are important to a pig’s work capability, rather than the bacon potential many people associate with pigs.
Considering the work that students like Mallory put into this process, it is no wonder that FFA requires significant commitment.

“I have learned a lot about responsibility and organization,” Mallory said. Like many other students, Mallory also receives support from her family. Phoebe is like a family pet.

Mallory’s parents were also members of FFA in high school and are proud to see her dedication. At Los Fresnos, family means a lot and programs like these keep that tradition alive.

Pigs may never fly, but Falcon farmers see their dreams take flight through the FFA program. 
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