Thursday was hog heaven at the Brown County Youth Fair, as market swine dominated the ag barn action throughout the day. Dr. Brant Poe of Tarleton State University served as judge for the proceedings, choosing the choicest pigs from large classes that sometimes included almost 20 hogs.
    According to his Youth Fair bio, Poe joined Tarleton’s Agricultural and Consumer Sciences department in September 2017. He began his professional career as a 4-H county extension agent in Brazos County, and later taught at Blinn College and Texas A&M where he coordinated and coached the nationally competitive livestock judging teams.
    Poe earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at Texas A&M. The Bulletin caught up with him for a few questions during Thursday’s lunch break.

Q: For people who may not know, what are some of the qualities you look for when judging a pig?

Poe: First and foremost, this is a market animal competition. So ultimately, the top end of these hogs are all going to be able to produce meat, and that’s the protein, or pork, that we as consumers — that’s ultimately what these animals will become. At the top end, customarily, they all satisfy those traits, so at that point it becomes a little more of a beauty pageant type of deal in terms of the design and the look and the finer features like skeletal correctness.

What are some of the differences between judging a pig and, say, a sheep or a goat?

In judging pigs versus pigs and goats, with those animals the judge will customarily put his hands on them and touch them quite a bit in terms of feeling the rack and feeling the loin. On a hog, you don’t have to do that. You can kind of see that. One of the reasons you do that in the other species is because of fat cover. You don’t want them to have too much fat on them. Whereas in the pig world, you don’t want them to be overly fat but we’ve got other ways that we can read that.

Is this your first time at the Brown County fair?

It is, and it’s an outstanding show. I’m very, very excited to be here. It’s an outstanding group of young people, and that’s the big thing. Sometimes, I get wrapped up because my profession is more on the evaluation of animals side of things. But I always keep in mind, I’ve got a pretty extensive background in terms of being a state FFA officer and working with 4-H, and that’s what this is all about. We use these animals as a vehicle to develop these young people, and that’s why showmanship is so important.