The scent of livestock, hay and burgers and fries awakened the nostrils of MontanaFair visitors, along with the sounds of lowing cattle, the loud grunting of swine and the clatter of hooves, some cloven, on the cement of the Montana Pavilion’s floor.
The sounds and odors alerted Montanans that animals in Montana remain paramount to the economy and its agricultural rhythms. Colt Hando, 10, from Shepherd, and his male pig – a barrow – Bubbles, pink with big black spots, demonstrated their enthusiasm for farming life as he guided the swine with his “show stick” so that the judge could view the animal’s structure as well as the control Hando maintained over his market swine.
Colt said he started to learn to handle pigs with other kids in his 4-H club, the Huntley Eagles, last May. He said he hoped to sell Bubbles for $1,100 to $1,200 at MontanaFair.
But his other pig, Stripes, a gilt, a female pig that has never borne any piglets, he said he would save for the Northern International Livestock Exposition in October and sell her there.
“It’s harder to work with boy pigs than girl pigs,” said Hando. “Boys get grumpier than girls, and they like to hang out, just lie in their barn, while the girl pigs like to root around for stuff.”
“He got third place yesterday in showmanship,” said Hando’s mother, Sarah Hando, 38, a longtime resident of Shepherd. “He showed a pig named Stripes, a gilt,” she said, adding, “Showmanship teaches kids a lot about life. It is a lot of work to care for an animal, feed it, keep it healthy, get the right amount of feed so they are still gaining ... . If the kids practice with their animals, they can get the animal to do anything ... the pig is not running away from the handler or hiding in the corner,” said Colt’s aunt, Johanna Huepel, 34, who lives on a five-acre parcel of land with eight horses, two rabbits, three goats and her family.
Her family included her husband, Justin, and their three children: Andee, 4; Jax, 3; and Case, 5. Budding ropers, Case and Jax showed their mother and aunt their roping skills by capturing a chair, their sister and their cousin, Kaycee Foran, 28, from Shepherd.
She said Case and Jax started to learn roping by practicing on smaller animals, like pigs and goats. Their father, Justin Huepel, competes in ranch roping, in which he practices “fancy shots and cow doctoring,” said Johanna.
Enchanted with the agricultural lifestyle, the couple, Johanna and Justin, taught their three children to ride horses. She said Case has a miniature paint mare, Jax has a miniature blue roan gelding and Andee has a gray mare, apparently not a miniature, judging from the photo she presented on her cell phone.
Johanna Heupel said she is a hairdresser, while her husband Justin is a dental lab technician. She said they love to spend all their spare time engaging in agricultural activities on their land.
Aside from the swine, goats occupied a large area of the pavilion. Many information sheets contained facts about goats: “How to Train a Goat to Pull a Cart,” by Cheryl K. Smith at Dummies.com; Goatworld.com, managed by Gary Pfalzbot, who defined a male goat as a “buck or billy,” a female goat as a “nanny or doe,” a male castrated goat as a “wether,” and a “hermaphrodite” as a goat that displays male as well as female characteristics. He also wrote that goats have rectangular, not round, pupils and many researchers think that this characteristic may bestow the caprine animals with excellent night vision.
There are more than 210 breeds of goats in the world, with most of the 450 million goats, as of 2001, populating the Middle East and Asia.