4-H students focus on pigs and rabbits at the Exchange Club | News


Two Gatesville High School students and 4-H members gave presentations at the Gatesville Exchange Club on May 4.

Kinlee Gardner, a freshman, spoke about “The Power of Pork” and Cayleigh Coursey, a sophomore, spoke about staging the bunnies. They were introduced by Exchange Club member and Coryell County Agrilife Extension agent Becky Coward, who oversees 4-H programs. Both students qualified for the state competition, where they will represent Coryell County.

Gardner bred show pigs and went a step further by researching interesting pig facts.

“Pork is the second most consumed meat product in the world,” she said, noting that only chicken ranks ahead of pork, while beef is third.

“There are 65,000 hog farms in the United States,” Gardner said. “Most are small farms with less than 100 pigs, but others can have up to 5,000.

The average production pig weighs 265 pounds and can generate 371 servings of feed, she noted, adding “that’s a lot of pork.”

Pig farming has changed significantly over the years, Gardner said.

“It’s very different from when my grandfather raised pigs,” she said. These pigs were fattened with mash, often a combination of several different leftovers, and the pigs were mostly kept outdoors.

Now most production pigs are fed a balanced nutritious diet and kept in temperature-controlled barns, she said.

Fear of contracting trichinosis – a food-borne illness that occurs when a consumer eats infected pork has decreased significantly with improved pig farming techniques, she said.

“You can cook most pork like a steak,” Gardner said. An exception is ground pork, which, like ground beef, must be cooked at higher temperatures to ensure food safety.

“Pork fits perfectly into healthy eating plans from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and myplate.gov” Gardner said.

She said there are different cuts of meat from different parts of the pig, and shoulder cuts are among the most popular.

“In 2011, the American Heart Association called pork tenderloin a heart-healthy food, and in 2016 the American Heart Association certified pork sirloin roast as extremely lean,” Gardner said. .

“It’s a great source of nutrients, including potassium which helps regulate blood pressure and phosphorus which is good for bones. Its most powerful punch is protein, which helps build blood and aids the body to fight infection and reduce fatigue.

“Today’s pork is really good for you. Not only is it nutritious, but there are a variety of ways to cook it.”


Coursey specializes in raising and showing rabbits, so that was the subject of her presentation. She said she chose the subject to gain a better understanding of staging rabbits.

Those competing must know their rabbits and know how to properly hold, handle and display the animals according to American Rabbit Breeders Association standards, she said.

She talked about the five body types that rabbits have: those with a fully arched back, which have longer legs and can stand up like a cat; semi-arched, which are taller and shorter so they cannot stand as high; compact, with smaller bodies that are easier to push to show off their butts; commercial, which is similar to semi-arched and compact mixed together; and cylindrical, with long bodies and short legs.

“There is only one race in the world” that is cylindrical, Coursey said – the Himalayas. These rabbits are on display to be judged.

To help him show different ways bunnies are checked and displayed during judging, Coursey brought out a stuffed bunny, Flopsy, during the presentation.

During a head-to-tail check of the rabbits, the judges examine the teeth, feet and nails, stomach, tail and sex.

The judges rule out the contestants and ask questions about their general knowledge of rabbits and specific breeds.

“Staging rabbits is all about skill and knowledge,” Coursey said. “You have to work with your rabbit every day to be competitive.

“Good sportsmanship is important, and it’s also important to be nice to other competitors,” she said, adding that those who show bunnies can also meet people and develop lasting friendships.

When asked how many rabbits she had, Coursey replied “nearly 30, maybe more”.

She said she also talked to the rabbits to help them stay calm.

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