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Stroll the Expo

  • 01

    The World Pork Expo's the place to be this week for anyone involved in the hog industry around the globe. Producers, industry experts and hog business company representatives flooded the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, for the annual event that this year includes people from 38 countries.

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    Let's take a quick stroll around the Expo grounds. The main drag is the place to be if you're hungry. See that smoke around those flags just to the left of the street in this shot? That was my first stop of the day. After all, pork's a great breakfast food, right?

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    Here's what was creating that smoke. The folks from Lynch BBQ of Waucoma, Iowa, were grilling up bratwursts for anybody passing by, and having a good time doing it.

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    "She had kind of a late night last night. That's why her eyes are bloodshot," said one of the Lynch guys grilling the brats. Though the line was short in the morning, as the day unfolded, the Lynch grill got a lot more attention.

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    And, here's why!

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    The Expo's the place to be if you're in the market for any new iron for your farm. The state fairgrounds are covered in booths -- indoors and out -- with the latest equipment, from trailers and manure tanks to the latest hog building technology.

  • 07

    This shirt logo caught my eye. That's a strange-looking pig! It's on Steve Caskey's shirt. He's an Alabama native who's now working in Thailand. One of his ventures is a large Tilapia fish farm. So, what's a fish farmer doing at World Pork Expo?

  • 08

    He also produces feed additives that are used in swine diets. He said Thailand's got around a 900,000-head sow herd (fewer than in Iowa), but is the nation's 3rd-leading exporter of chicken and is the world's largest shrimp producer. The average sow farm there is around 2,000 head and the nation imports about 90% of its soybean meal but is self-sufficient in corn, Caskey says.

  • 09

    After a quick chat with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey on the way to the barns (he said the corn on his northern Iowa farm is "beautiful" right now, having received some good rains lately), I went to visit some folks at the Expo to show hogs. People come to the Expo from all around the nation.

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    A lot of families make the Expo a vacation destination. Some drive halfway across the nation to show pigs. Some see it as a business proposition while others are doing it as a hobby.

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    Mark Karthauser, here with daughter Stevieann, drove 26 hours from Loomis, California, stopping every 2 hours to water his daughter's pigs. "The first couple of times we stopped, they wanted out. And, when a 300-pound pig wants out, it's tough to keep them in," Mark says of the trip to Des Moines.

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    The Karthausers see raising show pigs as more of a hobby. Mark works at a local cable company and the family has about 10 sows. "We can't make enough money doing it to make it a business. Feed costs are too high," he says. "But, coming here's kind of our vacation."

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    There are a lot of "secret weapons" in the show pig business. Here's Kevin Doherty's: Skittles. He and his 3 kids raise about 8 pigs a year, buying from farmers around Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. This is the second year the Watertown, Wisconsin, family has taken pigs to the World Pork Expo.

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    Doherty, an ag lender with Badgerland Farm Credit Services, says showing pigs is more of a hobby for his family. But, youth and agriculture are also part of his work with Farm Credit. "We're promoting programs for younger farmers and seeing a large increase in the number of young people wanting to go back to the farm," he says.

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    Here's a young guy from Oklahoma who isn't showing a pig at this year's Expo, but just as I walked by, I heard someone tell his dad "You just wait. He'll be showing next year."

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    These guys were hard at work when I walked by. They're brothers Gavin and Garrison Strika of stigler, Oklahoma. You could tell this wasn't their first hog show, and they were keeping their pens as clean as a whistle.

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    But, just as I was rounding the corner, they'd already shifted gears. Here, they're leading their pigs to the scale for the pre-show weigh-in.

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    The showring was a busy place Wednesday, too. Young producers from around the country were showing barrows Wednesday. The competition is pretty tight, with a lot of hogs in the ring. And, these aren't your grandfather's pigs. Good genetics and diet are evident in each animal.

Take a trip around the grounds and meet a few folks at the 2012 World Pork Expo.

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