The Land magazine, a regional agricultural and rural life weekly distributed in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, carried a fun feature about the “Farm Chore Olympics” staged at the Dickinson County Fair in Milford, IA this summer.
As only a bunch of farm kids can do, the members of the Milford Pioneers 4-H club conjured up a series of farm tasks that could be scored. Teams of five members (two boys, two girls required) competed in a series of timed events, such as pitching a pile of manure (wet straw, actually) over a fence, rolling a large round bale down a marked lane and over a railroad tie, and a bale toss-n-stack challenge.
The article tickled an idea that had slipped back into the far recesses of my memory bank. The original idea came from one of the most original thinkers I’ve come to know in the swine industry, Minnesota producer Linden Olson. Linden first floated the idea of a “Super Swine Olympics” back in the mid-80s.
The event that stuck best in my mind was a challenge for participants to thaw a frozen water fountain. We must have had the discussion in January!
In the day when a lot more sows and hogs were housed in open lots and open-fronted buildings with outside water fountains, keeping them free-flowing in sub-zero temperatures was a major challenge. Linden wisely suggested splitting the country in half, pitting pork producers on the south side of Interstate 70 against those on the north side.
I think extra points could be earned by those who could successfully accomplish the task in the dark, juggling a dim flashlight with nearly dead batteries, thereby simulating the real-life experience of upper Midwestern producers in the dead of winter.
As a footnote, I must also credit Linden with a tip I have used many times to thaw frozen water lines: Fill a hand-pump sprayer with hot water, which allows you to precisely spray the “suspected” frozen area — often the elbow in the waterline. It works great and requires a lot less hot water.
I checked back with Linden and with his help, we have compiled this list of timed and scored events:
- Moving a nesting sow from her gestating quarters to a farrowing crate.
- Pig-in-the-pit — Timed removal of a pig from a manure pit (simulated, of course)
- Rod-in-the-pit — Fishing a gate rod from a pit; extra points for creativity.
- Confinement hog loading
(husband and wife teams) — Points and penalties based on language used and whether participants were still speaking to each other after the hogs are loaded. A separate event for prenuptial couples suggested.
- Pigs are out — Husband-and-wife and family team events where participants must be dressed in their Sunday best. A timed event with extra points if a change of clothes was not needed when pigs were secured and if participants could make it to church before the first hymn is sung.
- Bucket brigade — Carry two 5-gallon buckets of feed to a group of hungry sows. Scored by the amount of feed spilled, whether the participant remained standing throughout the chore. Deductions made if gate latch is not secured and sows escape.
- Shower-in, shower-out (simulated) — This timed event would challenge participants to select socks,
T shirts, coveralls, boots and sprint 50 ft. to the finish line. Points for matching socks, appropriate fit and agility.
- Ear notch accuracy (simulated) — Using the universal ear-notching code, notch a designated three-digit number in the right ear and a two-digit number in the left ear.
- Manure scooping (simulated) — Participants will scoop 15 gallons of slurry (soggy sawdust) into a wheel barrow, transport it 25 yards to container without spilling. Points acquired for speed, cleanliness of area and of the participant when job is complete.
- Baling wire proficiency test — With hogs on both sides of a 16-ft. wire hog panel, secure both ends of the panel with baling wire. Points for time efficiency and hog security.
- Piggy back jaunt — Participants over 18 years old carry participant under 10 years old through obstacle course in the fastest time.
- All ties will be broken with a panel of judges scoring a hog calling contest. Points for originality and volume.
Perhaps the Super Swine Olympics will take root at your county or state fair, or even debut at next year’s World Pork Expo. The important thing is to work hard, play hard, and have a little fun.