AUSTIN — Premier breeders from across the country who’ve made a livelihood in raising purebred hogs made the trip to southern Minnesota last week for the National Barrow Show at the Mower County Fairgrounds.
On Sept. 12 those breeders could all be found inside or milling around Crane Pavilion for the double-ring Breeder Sale, where some of finest breeding boars and foundation sows in the country were up for sale.
Thirty-eight head — 13 boars, 25 gilts — were sold at this year’s Breeder Sale, totaling $45,975. That tops last year’s sale by more than $12,000, even though two fewer hogs were sold this year.
Boars averaged more than $2,000 a head, while the average price for a gilt was $749. This year’s highest priced pig was exhibited by Austin Lane of Iowa, and sold to a buyer group from Wisconsin for $10,500.
Reese Frohling and his uncle Bruce leaned attentively on the fencing around the ring on the south side of the pavilion, where Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace, Yorkshire and Crossbred boars were shown. The two make the trip every year from Bellevue, Iowa, to take part in buying and selling purebred hogs. They bring pigs to sell, and then look for others to buy as replacements.
“Our family has been exhibiting at this show since the mid ’60s,” Bruce Frohling said. Frohling’s father, Lawrence, began the family tradition when he attended some of the first National Barrow Shows.
Minutes after Reese Frohling placed the winning bid on a gilt, he was outside receiving some flak from his girlfriend, Molly Martin, on the decision. From her front-row seat in the stands, Martin questioned the hog’s appearance.
“It’s his money,” said Martin, who was in charge of the trivia show at this year’s social held by the Certified Pedigreed Swine.
Reese Frohling said that once the gilt comes into heat, they’ll breed her and three months later will have piglets. When they’re old enough, those pigs will then be shown at summer breeder sales.
Both rings had an emcee and an auctioneer, who together introduced each hog by stating its description, where it came from and a few selling points before taking bids.
Appearance-wise, Reese Frohling said buyers are looking for well-structured male hogs, and females that look like they could handle another litter.
“They have to walk well, too, because feet and legs are a huge deal,” said Bruce Frohling.
The National Barrow Show remains one of the more significant shows of the season, but Frohling said its timing isn’t the best for what breeders are looking for in today’s industry. He said buyers are looking more for December-January born pigs now.
“There really isn’t a need for late February or March-born pigs anymore,” Frohling said. “Because they won’t be big enough by the summer to show.”
For those who’ve never bid on a hog before, the method for doing so cannot be picked up simply by watching. Buyers communicate bids nonverbally to the spotters inside the ring.
“If you’re looking for a bid, all you gotta do is make eye contact with them and nod,” Reese Frohling said.
So if you’re attending a breeding sale recreationally, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes on the pigs.
“Otherwise you might end up buying a couple gilts,” Martin said.