WEST ALEXANDER, Pa. — Caitlyn McConn can’t image a life without hogs in it.
The Washington County teen got started in hogs as 4-H projects. Then the passion grew, and she developed her 4-H hog projects into an agricultural enterprise through the McGuffey FFA Chapter, as well.
For her work, the young woman earned her Keystone Degree from the FFA, then went on to apply and receive the western regional Star in Agribusiness.
But she didn’t stop there.
State Star award
At the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January, McConn earned the state Star in Agribusiness award, competing against a dairy project and two landscaping projects.
She interviewed with the judges for 45 minutes, but she wasn’t sure if the long interview was a good thing or a bad thing.
“It was nerve-wracking. We had our interviews at 9 a.m. and didn’t find out the results until 3 p.m.,” said McConn.
It turns out the long interview was a good thing.
And now she will be moving on to the Big E, or Eastern States Expo, in Springfield, Massachusetts, next September where she will compete against 13 other competitors.
For McConn, the hogs are a family tradition.
Her dad, Jeff, raised and showed market hogs while in FFA and 4-H. Her mom, showed breeding sheep when she was young. McConn said having both parents support her and her siblings has been a major part of why she is involved with hogs.
The family got involved in raising and breeding hogs in 2007 and everyone was involved, from farrowing to marketing.
McConn said her sister, Bridget, started raising and breeding hogs in 2009. Then she started in 2011, followed by her brother, Jeffrey.
McConn’s swine production project starts from the beginning of life for many of her hogs, and her records showed that to the judges. Each hog is listed in the book, followed by how many they gave birth to, how many died and where they were eventually sold.
Some were sold as fair projects, and some were sold to at Minteer’s Market in Claysville, Pennsylvania, where the McConn family has its pork processed and sold.
Her family raises 25 sows, which will farrow out this spring. Then the family will raise five or six litters this summer. The family has eight more litters due this winter.
McConn herself has raised nine litters during her four years in the McGuffey FFA. She’s currently farrowing out two litters herself and raising them, with four more due before spring.
“I just love the pigs,” she said.
The purebred Spots she raises are either shown by her or sold as feeder hogs.
The crossbred hogs are either sold for fair projects to other 4-H’ers or sold as feeders if they aren’t what McConn finds to be show quality.
McConn said the whole process of raising hogs from birth to the end product is what drives her. She not only makes sure she is available when the hogs are due to birth, but she also likes to be involved in the breeding side of things. The farm uses mostly artificial insemination, and McConn enjoys making decisions and seeing the end result when the piglets are born.
“I love to be involved in the farrowing end of things,” said McConn.
“Her dad is always after her about how much she handles them and the time she spends in the barn with them,” said McConn.
McConn said she enjoys watching the pigs grow and seeing how they develop.
“Some of them just stick out. They will let you know when they aren’t happy,” she said.
McConn graduated from McGuffey High School last year. She took the fall semester off and chose to center her attention on her market lamb and market goats for the Pennsylvania Farm Show. She felt that she couldn’t give the attention either school or the livestock needed, if she did both. She also took three goats to the North American International Livestock Exposition in November.
McConn started her first semester at the Community College of Allegheny County in January and plans on completing a couple of semesters there so she can stay home and be involved with her hogs.
She hopes to eventually attend West Virginia University and major in agricultural business. Her career goal should come as no surprise: She knows she wants to do something in the hog industry.