By Jennifer Stultz Editor
It all started with a few pig butchers who inspired Project 4-H five years ago. Next came the successful Blue Ribbon projects Goose and Mose at the Pratt County Fair. And now Brett Atbury, 16, and his brother Willie, 13, couldn’t be happier looking after 10 wobbly, snoring, fluttering, and bred piglets in their backyard on Christmas Eve on their small farm off 20463 SUS 281 Highway in Pratt County.
“I learned patience through all of this,” Brett Atberry said.
It has taken some time for the Atteberry family to get a place where they can raise and grow their own 4-H pig business, as they only moved last year to their current location in the country after living in Pratt city limits for several years earlier, due to Abe’s job Brian Atteberry In Pratt County EMS. Keep Project 4-H pigs elsewhere. Mom Krystal Atteberry has always been in favor of moving to the country so the kids can expand their 4-H projects and experience some of the benefits of 4-H and farm life she had as a child.
Once the Atteberry family was located on their current site, they cleared trees, built new pig pens, and created suitable accommodations before expanding their pig business. They got their last new shed just in time for the arrival of their first batch of pigs for Christmas.
“We had just finished the shed on December 23 and moved in to the two pregnant sows,” said Brian Atberry. “I noticed when she came out later and one of them (Moose) seemed to be panting heavily and looking forward to preterm labor. We weren’t expecting her to shrug another day or so.”
Sure enough, the next day on December 24, the Atteberry family noticed a pig’s head sticking out from under the deep straw bed. They couldn’t see their pigs already born, but they enjoyed finding them in the deep straw nest.
From their birth, approximately 5 weeks ago, the piglets have been a constant source of entertainment and excitement for the Atteberry family.
Wiley admitted to spending a lot of time in the barn playing with the pigs. Britt spends significantly more time evaluating them for good display characteristics and finding the structural differences between them.
“You want the front end to be naturally elevated,” he said. “They need square legs and to walk on them properly. They need to show quite a bit of width from the back and over their top but don’t have an arch in the loin area. You want that flatter there.”
Sometimes evaluating piglets is tricky, as their favorite pastime seems to be learning to operate the nipple valves in automatic watering jugs and chasing each other from pen to pen, working 360 seconds in the hay, wiping in a pile and jumping up to do it again.
They are also friendly, evidenced by a lot of human interaction, and love to chew shoes and attack buckets. Some of their names are obvious for those characteristics, such as Nippy. Bambi and Baby are also easily identifiable.
“We started training them early,” said Brett Atberry. “I’m really looking forward to viewing it.”
The pigs were from a hump cross female and an artificially inseminated father. Atteberry said he plans to keep one pig, possibly two to compete at this summer’s Pratt County Fair and Hardtner’s Spring Show. He chose his favorite – a blue cross with a spot on its withers.
“I call it huge,” Brett said. “It’s about the best one of the bunch.”
Wiley hasn’t made his official options yet, but he will soon approach weaning age and many other youngsters in the area have already heard of good pigs and set up reservations.
“We’re not doing it for a profit, just more for the learning experience,” Brett said. “It was a lot of fun. There is hard work, but we all help.”
Brett said he hopes the family farm will expand to include chickens and possibly a sheep business in the future. Meanwhile, the pigs keep him, his brother, and his parents very busy.