The swine barn buzzed with activity Wednesday morning, but Kalli McCune’s attention was focused on her fellow Huasna Valley 4-H member’s blue butt pig, Gibson.
McCune, 13, sprayed the 251-pound hog with a shine treatment and explained, “Everyone shines their pig. Last year, I got second place because my pig wasn’t shiny enough. There’s a fine line — you want to make sure he’s just shiny enough.”
The teen was one of many youths from southern San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties who were busy grooming their animals on the opening day of the 123rd annual Santa Barbara County Fair.
The fair runs through Sunday at the Santa Maria Fairpark. The small stock auction (rabbits, turkeys and chickens) will be held Friday at noon, followed by the replacement heifer auction at 5 p.m. The junior livestock auction (swine, beef, goats, and sheep) will start at 8 a.m. Saturday.
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“It’s a huge responsibility,” said Mary Jean Abatti of Nipomo. Nearby, her son, Nipomo FFA member Jacob Abatti, painstakingly readied his steer for the market competition, where the animal would be judged on its structure and characteristics.
“He’s had to train it, teach it to walk in the halter,” she said. “His costs are expensive. He has to make sure he’s buying hay that he can afford.”
Before entering the ring, Jacob Abatti quietly concentrated on his steer, Buster. But after Buster took third in his class, the 16-year-old was relaxed and all smiles, posing for photos with the animal.
“He’s one of the easiest steers I’ve ever had,” said Abatti, who has shown livestock since he was 9. “I call him my teddy bear.”
Back in the swine barn, Gibson’s owner, 15-year-old Cori Heck, shared why she enjoys 4-H. She’s also showing a dairy goat at the fair.
Many people think that 4-H is just animals, Heck said, but there’s a range of different programs, from sewing to cooking to personal safety.
“It teaches us a lot of responsibility,” she said. “It prepares you for life.”