Surprisingly, the Washington Post hits the state fair scene, and highlights the big money livestock show stupidity (h/t Fair Mom):
Increasing sale prices are just one component of the escalating cost of showing pigs — premium feeds are also very expensive. But they’re not as costly as cattle, which is partly why interest has grown in hog competitions. The National Swine Federation recorded a 15 percent increase in the number of purebred registered hogs between 2009 and 2013, and youth membership tripled over the past 10 years, to 12,400 kids.I've never understood the economics of market show animals, or breeding stock for that matter. At least with the breeding stock, you have a small chance of hitting the lottery with semen sales (yes, I did type that), but with the market animals, you are paying outrageous money for a steer or barrow (castrated male cattle and swine, for the city folks out there) that only has a future on somebody's dinner plate. The market for that is pretty well set (at a loss), although state fair grand champions will bring in a windfall (a state champion steer bought a local guy a Corvette and an Ohio State education [well, at least the car was worth something]). Anyway, parents, as they have been wont to do in kids' sports, have ruined another youth pastime by ratcheting up the competition until they drive the fun (and affordability) out of things. What good is childhood if it is just the fucked up adult world for minors? My parents did a lot of things right, but one of the things they did best was to keep the right perspective on youth sports and 4H. At least for the sports, it helped that my sister and I were terrible athletes. For the fair, it probably helped that we were cheap and lazy, and only interested in a county fair pass.
Vaughan declined to say how much she paid for their pigs. “We do the top line of everything,” she says. “You get out of it what you put into it.”
Success in the show ring, however, is a far from objective process — especially when the judges themselves are in the hog breeding business.
“There is a lot of politics to it,” Vaughan says. “There’s people we’ve never bought a pig from, and they’ll bring them right to the top, and kick ‘em in the guts. And they’re doing that to my little boy, that makes my mommy claws come out a little bit. I’ll never go to a sale of his, if that’s how you’re going to treat me. You should be saying, ‘I want you to have my pig.’” ‘
The Vaughans’ determination aside, competition in West Virginia is mild compared to the massive state fairs in Iowa and Indiana and Ohio.