One of the major reasons I chose to attend to Western Illinois University is the Swine Farm. From a young age I was competing in the show-ring at the 4-H, State, and National levels. To me, showing pigs is the greatest extra circular activity possible. So, why not attend a University that is nationally know for their show-pig enterprises? Honestly, it was basically a no-brainer for me to come to Macomb and have the chance to be apart of the legacy that is Western Illinois University!
Since Dr. Mark Hoge took over in 2003, Western Illinois University Swine Farm became a household name within the swine industry. To get started it took major support from the alumni base and students to make it happen. In 2003 Dr. Hoge called Kevin Killey, a local farmer of Roseville, and asked if he could bring eight Yorkshire gilts to the Pre-Barrow Show workout. Once they arrived it didn’t take long for the WIU crew to try and purchase these eight gilts, to start the Yorkshire herd. These gilts quickly became the foundation females and created the sow base that Western has today. Through the years, we have received tremendous support from our alumni base that has increased the genetic value of the herd. Much appreciation goes to boar studs for working semen deals to keep costs low, along with donations from families closely tied to the school farm.
The biggest role the swine farm plays, is the provider of the truckload pigs for the National Barrow Show. Many people have wound around Wigwam Hollow Road to see the barrow barn. This is where a lot of the junior judging team members spend most of their August and September preparing hogs for the truckload competition and the judging workout. When you are at the barrow barn not only are we creating team chemistry, but we are also teaching one another and learning new techniques. When people walk into the livestock center the walls are filled with trophies and pictures of past teams and their truckload winners. However what people do not see is the backroom shelves full of them as well. This is the staple of what Western does, and this summer it was in the spotlight. Western sold 3 boars at the World Pork Expo, Summer Type Conference, and National Barrow Show that totaled $47,500. This was something that every student that walked in to that barn was able to have the feeling that they were apart of those 3 boars in some way or another.
With an old school facility and new age techniques WIU still strives to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to breeding. We often use the swine farm as a means of teaching for animal science classes. We use the sow herd for experiments of new practices to compare to traditional practices. We also use the swine farm to give the opportunity to people who do not have an agriculture background the chance to learn more about the swine industry.
As I begin to look back on my two years here at WIU it has truly been an honor to be part of the legacy that is the swine farm. I reflect on all the people that have impacted our herd and only hope that when I graduate and the next group comes in they will continue the legacy.
My name is Damon Stayton and I reside in Carlinville, Illinois. I grew up on a farm where we raised row crops and Poland China showpigs. I am currently a Senior at Western Illinois University, I am majoring in Ag Business and minoring in Animal Science. Along with being on the Livestock Judging Team I spent a lot of hours at the swine farm.