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Show and promote your pigs
7:16am Tuesday 26th June 2012 in Livestock
Showing; you may love it or hate it, but without a doubt, when it comes to promoting your pigs, it is one of the best marketing tools there is, writes Linda McDonald-Brown.
Literally thousands of people pass through the gates of an agricultural show such as the RWAS Spring Fesitival on May 19-20 or the Yorkshire Show, and if only even a fraction of them are interested in keeping pigs, the number of potential customers viewing your pigs are huge.
This year there has never been a better opportunity to start showing as more and more shows up and down the country are incorporating pig classes into their programme.
Thanks to the hard work put in by the recently formed Scottish Pig Keepers Association in Scotland – previously a non-starter in the pig class stakes – are now tentatively holding pig classes at a few of their agricultural shows during 2012, accumulating in the first ever Scottish Smallholders show on September 30 at Forfar Market in Angus.
If you feel that showing would benefit your business, then you need to go into it with commitment as going in half heartedly and unprepared will obviously do you no favours whatsoever. Entering shows will mean financial outlay and many hours spent training your pigs to walk and stand quietly beside you and it goes without saying that the pig you enter in a class should be the best you have and conform to breed standard, as well as being in tip-top condition and with excellent manners. The handler should be aware of ring etiquette, look professional with pressed clean clothes and carry the correct equipment.
Pigs or pig pens that are not up to par will not catch the eye of the public. Even “old hands” at showing, take days to prepare for a big show, and usually don’t relax until they are on their way home. The Wales and Border Counties Pig Breeders Association regularly run hands on showing masterclasses and workshops, so if you are able, book a place on one of these to give you a good basic knowledge of showing requirements.
Your pig pens should look workmanlike but attractive, some pens just stand out and it’s those that should inspire and give you ideas for dressing your own. It’s vital that the name of the herd is the first thing that the public see, so a colourful display banner for instance with photos and the prefix of your herd, and clear contact details always draw the attention of those wondering through the lines, as does a line of fluttering rosettes and placement cards which hopefully you will come away with.
Shows are a great way of catching up with other likeminded people, but during the day is not the time to wander off to gossip with other pig people. As far as possible except when in the ring, you should stay close to your pens. There is nothing more annoying for a potential customer to make a point of visiting you only to find no one about. An empty chair could well mean they take their custom to a breeder who is present.
Ensure you have literature that you can hand out. Although professionally printed leaflets are best, if your budget doesn’t run to this, photocopies will do just as well. The main thing is that you have information available when you talk to customers. Many people won’t make a decision on the day however if you let them go without obtaining their details or at least giving them some information on your pigs, it could well be that they go to the breeder who has. A hastily written contact number on a scrap of paper just won’t do and looks unprofessional. Remember you are starting out, so you have to compete with breeders who already have a good name and who know the ropes, don’t let yourself be disadvantaged by not preparing and doing things properly.
If it is local show you’ve entered, contact your local newspaper beforehand. They are always keen on printing human interest stories and usually they will be covering the show in any case. Send them a few details about yourself, your pigs and unique selling points about your business including which classes you are entering and a photograph. Publicity before the show is a great way of making people aware you will be there with your pigs.
If your budget runs to it, enquire about sponsoring a pig or pork class. It usually won’t cost that much and having your name emblazoned on a banner around the ring which the show organisers encourage you as a sponsor to display, or on the show programme ensures that your business will be one that the public remember. It also makes a good starting point when talking to customers.
A great show to cut your showing teeth on is the forthcoming Builth Wells Smallholder and Garden Festival held on May 19-20.
As well as being an informative show for the smallholder, the pig classes draw in exhibitors and spectators from all over the Uk. Run by the Wales and Border Counties Pig Breeders Association the pig show has increased in size over the years but still remains a friendly show for beginners with a wide variety of classes including agility, as well as representatives from the different breed societies on hand to talk and advise on their breed.
This year the annual display which has become quite a talking point in pig circles over the years, will be depicting a wartime allotment complete with wartime sounds and paraphernalia.
Of course the allotment would not be complete without the presence of that well known wartime pig, the London Porker also known as the Middle White. This and every other breed can be seen over the two days of the show.
If you are serious about taking your pig business forward, start showing, it’s fun, sociable and what’s more it will benefit your business. n
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