Routt County swine strut their stuff

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— Tyler Manzanares, 17, of Hayden claimed his second championship in three years in Wednesday's senior swine showmanship competition at the Routt County Fair. The event was popular, with more than 200 spectators in the bleachers.

Judge Brett Kaysen of Nunn praised Manzanares for the way he groomed his gilt (young female pig) and his ability to calmly guide it into the center of the show ring while other animals tended to hug the fence.

Competitors use slight taps of a plastic wand to the muzzle and shoulder to steer the animals in the ring. But that alone won't ensure success.

"In senior showmanship in particular, I think it's about more than driving the hogs," Kaysen said. "You have to show that you actually know something about the industry."

The judge asked all of the competitors to take the microphone and briefly describe to the crowd the strengths and weaknesses of their animals.

"The thing I like about her is she's real muscle-bound," Manzanares said. "She's muscular over the top, but she's clean (showing good lines) over the lower one-third of her body. She's a little heavy, but she carries it well."

Manzanares won the championship in 2004 and was reserve champion in 2005.

Nathan Greenwall of Steamboat Springs took home the ribbon for reserve champion. Greenwall said he was pleased because his barrow (a male pig) had overcome sickness over the summer.

"He barely made weight today," Greenwall said.

The animals had to weigh at least 220 pounds to qualify for the show ring. Weight gain wasn't the greatest of Greenwall's pig's challenges.

The barrow came down with a respiratory infection that scarred its lungs and sapped its endurance. The sickness also made it more difficult to build a bond of friendship with the animal.

Kaysen observed that all of the swine in senior showmanship wearied from the heat. For that reason, he urged the competitors in the future to soak their pigs with water immediately before entering the show ring.

Many of them were doing their best to keep the pigs cool while they waited their turn in the livestock barn.

Jessika Hockett, 7, of Hayden, wasn't old enough to exhibit, but she helped brother Jake, 11, by pumping a mist of water from a portable sprayer onto his prize "blue butts" (Hampshire and Yorkshire cross pigs), Salt and Pepper.

Jake said he works with his pigs all summer long to build a relationship of trust in the show ring. He turns them into the barnyard at his grandparents' home and attempts to keep them from wandering off. When things break down, he turns to an old friend.

"My dog, Macey, gets them out of the bushes," he said.

Jessika is eager for the 2007 Routt County Fair when she'll be old enough to raise a piglet of her own.

"When we first get them, they're so cute, I want to hold them," Jessika said. "But I don't because they squeal so loud it hurts my ears."

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