No business like show pig business
By Ashley Woodward
To Shawn Tipton, a pig isn't a smelly animal, it's the subject of his art. It takes talent, a special eye for details and hard work to raise and breed show pigs. A breeder like Tipton must be able to look at a pig and, in an instant, decide its strengths and weaknesses.
Photo by Ashley Woodward,/em>
Shawn Tipton, a junior horticulture and landscape design major from Connersville Ind., shows off a new litter of pigs he successfully raised.
The junior landscape horticulture and design major from Connersville, Ind., started his own show pig operation three years ago after winning grand champion gilt at the Fayette County 4-H Fair. "I was tired of buying a bunch of pigs to show," said Tipton. "I wanted to raise my own show pigs."
Since he began raising show pigs, Tipton has developed quite a herd. He has about 25 crossbred and Yorkshire show pigs, and has had many class winners at the county, state and national levels. His biggest achievement came when one of his pigs won a class at a national barrow show in Minnesota.
Tipton has been able to do more with his business with the help from his partner, Randy Kidd, who owns half the gilt herd and maintains the buildings. "Raising show pigs is a hard job to take on," said Kidd. "I take care of the pigs during the week while Shawn is away at school."
Along the way to becoming a business owner, Tipton said many people have helped him. One family in particular has given the most guidance. Lisa Snyder and her husband, also from Connersville, have been in the swine industry for many years. They watched Tipton grow up through 4-H and school. Snyder and her husband have taught Tipton all they know about raising and showing pigs. They provide him with advice on feed issues, information on different boars and insider tidbits on show pigs.
"Shawn is not afraid to ask for help and that's what you have to do just starting out," said Snyder. When Tipton started, Snyder said he had very little knowledge about raising show pigs. The important part, she said, was that he had the foresight to look for people and ask for help. "If I am unsure about anything regarding breeding or a type of feed, I know the Snyders are there to help," said Tipton.
The cost of college tuition and books can add up, but Tipton has the added cost of running his own business. Buildings have to be maintained and feed has to be bought for the herd. It adds up to a lot of money, and plenty of experience - not all of which is positive. "I'm just getting a bitter taste of what starting a business is like," Tipton said.
Although the business may be tough and full of different challenges each day, Tipton said, it is still very rewarding — especially the joy of winning. "It's a lot better to see something win when you raise it than when you have nothing to do with it," he said, smiling.
While trying to keep up with his business, he has homework, papers and exams at Purdue. He's also actively involved in Purdue's livestock judging team. Tipton said the judging team has allowed him to network with other agriculture students and helped him clarify information he was unsure of.
Tipton said that going to Purdue has taught him more about responsibility and time management. "When you put the time and effort into raising the pigs, you want people to buy them," Tipton said. "A good product has to be produced for the customers to keep returning," he said.
Tipton has big goals for the future, but for now he wants to graduate from Purdue and get a job to help fund his operation. Ten years down the road, he hopes to have a wide range of customers stretching into Oklahoma.