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Show Bound: Beck Sisters Berks
Showing livestock is a family affair for the Becks of Allerton, Illinois. Everyone is involved and has a role in raising and caring for the animals – even 3-year-old Elsie. While the Becks have been showing livestock for 10 years, they recently launched a new project: raising, selling, and showing Berkshire pigs.
“We started showing swine because our two oldest daughters came to us and asked if they could get involved in showing hogs through 4-H,” recalls mom Tracey. “My husband, Tony, and I prayed about it and decided we wanted to give them something else to call their own on the farm.”
With the purchase of a Berkshire gilt named Lucy, Beck Sisters Berks was born. After her first appearance in the show ring, it was clear Lucy was something special.
“I showed her at our county fair, and she did really well. A lot of people said they wanted to buy Lucy from me, so that confirmed she would make a good sow,” says oldest daughter Hallie. “We bred her and kept her 12 piglets to show the next year.”
Yet, allowing the girls to show hogs was so much more than having something to call their own.
“There is a quote hanging in our livestock trailer that says, ‘My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me,’" says Tracey. “When the girls came to us and asked about getting involved with the hogs, we believed they could do it. Whether it’s a sport, FFA, or 4-H, it’s important to let our children feel and hear that we believe in them."
By giving each of their girls that gift, the couple not only is helping Hallie, Hannah, Faith, Laura and Elsie reach their potential, but also is nurturing their individual personalities.
Gentle and thoughtful, Hallie has been a member of 4-H for 10 years. At shows, she is considerate of others and will put their needs before her own.
“Hallie is someone who wants to be behind the scenes and be a servant,” says Tony. “She does the things that aren’t necessarily noticed all of the time.”
During farrowing, it is not unusual for Hallie to stay late in the barn to make sure everything is in order and the piglets are nursing as they should. Though raising pigs has its challenges and things don’t always go according to plan, she finds it a very rewarding experience.
“I enjoy spending time with my family in the barn,” she says. “Caring for our animals every day has taught me a lot about responsibility and dedication.”
Those qualities will serve her well as she heads off to Dordt College to major in animal science.
Ambitious and responsible, Hannah, who has been involved in 4-H for eight years, is a self-starter. She helps organize the work that needs to get done in the pig barn and follows through to ensure it is accomplished.
“Hannah is always on top of making sure the pigs are trained and ready for competition,” says Tracey.
When it’s time to head to a show, there’s no need to worry about supplies and the necessities because Hannah’s got it covered.
“The thing I enjoy most about showing and raising pigs is working with my family,” says Hannah. “It can be difficult at times because we all have our own way of doing things, but we have learned to work together to establish the same end goal.”
Fun-loving Faith, who is a six-year member of 4-H, knows how to keep her family happy when times gets tough.
“When things aren’t going the right way during the day, at a show or even at home, Faith lightens the mood by bringing humor to the situation,” says Tracey.
Faith’s favorite part of raising pigs is spending time with them and seeing how they act. During farrowing, she can usually be found sitting with the sows to ensure every piglet is accounted for and nursing well.
“Raising pigs has taught me responsibility because I have to go to the barn every day to feed them, wash them, clean their pens, and work with them,” says Faith.
A young lady who prefers to spend much of her time outdoors, Laura is always eager to pitch in and assist her older sisters. From walking pigs to cleaning pens, you can count on her when an extra pair of hands is needed.
“Laura has a sweet spirit and is very helpful,” says Tracey. “She is always asking for chores and jobs to do, which helps the rest of us.”
When piglets are born, there is no doubt Laura will be close by to take care of them. It’s not unusual to find her sleeping in the barn to watch over the newborns. But the best part, she says, is giving the pigs fun names like Larry – who happens to be the pig she is showing this year.
As the youngest Beck sister, Elsie has no intention of being left out. Much like Laura, she wants to help wherever she can.
“Elsie is very determined,” says Tony. “She is always wanting to tag along and asks where you are going and what you are doing.”
When she’s not trying to keep up with her big sisters, you can find Elsie riding her John Deere Gator, riding in the tractor with her dad, or giving big hugs to humans and animals alike – three of her favorite things to do. Her compassion for the animals isn’t limited to hugs.
“Elsie also likes to pray for the baby pigs and their mothers,” says Tracey.
The End Goal
While this project is affording each of the girls the opportunity to develop their individual strengths, Tracey and Tony hope they come away from this experience with a sense of kindness and respect for humans and animals alike.
“Each time we go to a show, it is a character-building opportunity and a chance to extend grace to one another,” says Tony. “At the end of the day, you learn how to work together and help each other to be gracious people.”
From breeding their sows to working with the pigs to readying them for the show ring, Hannah, Hallie, Faith, Laura and Elsie Beck are all involved in every aspect of raising Berkshire pigs for their 4-H project – Beck Sisters Berks.
Devoting countless hours to the project, the family’s favorite part is seeing their months of hard work and dedication pay off in the ring.
Livestock judge Jennifer Down served as the 4-H swine judge at the Beck’s local county fair this year. She had the opportunity to see the family in action.
“Although I had not met the Becks until the Vermillion County Fair, in my short experience interacting with them, I was able to tell that their project is a family affair,” says Down. “The girls are great showmen.”
Editor's Note: The Becks are Successful Farming magazine’s 2018 Show Bound family. Currently on season four, this project allows our readers to get to know and follow families like the Becks as they prepare their livestock for the show ring.