WPX Keeps Growing
The World Pork Expo is the Super Bowl of the show pig season, bringing families and their show pig projects from all corners of the United States to Des Moines, Iowa, in early June. The WPX has seen major growth in numbers and foot traffic during the past five years, but last year its growth exploded. Brian Arnold, who oversees events for the National Swine Registry, says NSR anticipated growth, but never would have guessed how big it would be. In 2015 there were 4,000 junior hogs entered and 2,200 exhibited. In the open show, another 778 gilts were shown, making the event just shy of 5,000 hogs and the largest swine show of the year.
Entries were up 28-percent from 2014 to 2015. Arnold says the growth was due to amazing sales in the open show in 2014, when several purebred and crossbred gilts brought $20,000 to $30,000. Another major reason for growth is that so many families enjoy the trip in June to Iowa, with great facilities, venue and central location.
“We have more new families all the time,” he says. “Those that come, go home and bring back more people.”
WPX Makes Changes for 2016
As successful as the show was last summer, Arnold says there were challenges, and therefore changes will be made to improve the show this year. This year’s WPX will make better use of the schedules, by utilizing show rings at all times. In 2015 two shows ran past midnight, which meant kids, parents, the judges and staff were busy until late then up early the next morning for another long day. Arnold says this summer NSR will require all junior hogs to be in place on Monday evening, and the show begins with showmanship and crossbred junior gilts on Tuesday.
“We will use both rings for showmanship then run pigs through both for the junior crossbred gilt show that same day,” he says. “We had 45 classes for crossbred gilts last year so the first 22 will show in ring A and the others in ring B. We will have the two judges confer to select a champion.”
Then on Wednesday NJSA and the Team Purebred will hold the purebred junior gilt show. The barrow show will move to Thursday with NJSA and Team Purebred barrows showing in both rings. At the conclusion of the Spot barrow show, the junior crossbred barrow show will begin in ring B. This is a change from waiting to show crossbred barrows until after the purebred Grand Drive, as in years past.
On Friday, open show day, the NSR breeds and crossbred boars will show in ring A. CPS breeds and Berkshires will show in ring B, followed by the open crossbred gilts. The longest show last summer was the open crossbred gilts so instead this summer NSR will show some of the cross boars and cross gilts concurrently in different show rings.
Arnold says the biggest challenge of WPX is that it’s held simultaneously with a seven-day horse show. The activities and show ring excitement are intense, and the streets and parking lots are tight with traffic. He says NSR is continually looking at how to best manage trailer loading and unloading as well as how to give kids and parents a sit-down break, the chance to eat dinner outside of the fairgrounds and time to swim at their hotel.
NSR will also webcast the show, a very popular addition in 2015. Last summer Walton Webcasting provided video of the junior and open shows, and Arnold says viewership was measured at 33,000 views in 47 states and seven countries. And that doesn’t count the young people and families who sat up shop with chairs and food beside the webcast on the barn televisions.
At the end of the week-long event, NSR staff are told by many people that it’s a show that provides a totally level playing field for exhibitors from across the United States. The weather is not terribly hot yet in the summer, which is easier for those in the southwestern part of the county and the fairgrounds are historical and nostalgic.
A Great Place for Building Relationships
For Doug Albright, a breeder, swine show judge and Zoetis business manager, the World Pork Expo is an exhilarating and exhausting week. Albright has meetings with Zoetis customers every day and evening, and he checks in with families he’s sold pigs to from his operation, Albright Swine Farms. He obviously wants to watch these kids show in the ring and from a judges perspective, Albright is trying to “sharpen the saw” by watching the show and see where the industry is going.
“Simply put, it’s the most grueling and hardest week of my year,” he says. “It has become the event where my company and farm are in the public eye the most. It is the swine industry’s Super Bowl. You can reach commercial producers and show pig producers all at the same event. However, it is very busy.”
He says no matter how busy the week gets, he encourages exhibitors, families and breeders to find down time so they can re-charge and connect with each other. Though he can and does multi-task well at WPX, Albright sees the chance to spend time visiting and laughing around a feed pen as an essential aspect of any show.
“I try to find as much down time as possible because time at the stall is one of the fondest times at any show,” he says.