Macomb High School Ag Is Back With A Bang

Agriculture has always been a fundamental part of the livelihood here in Macomb. However, for the last few decades the town has failed to give Ag that same appreciation in the classroom. From 1987-88 til 2015 there was no Ag program at Macomb Senior High School. Instead, students would have to travel to the next town over to receive the course at West Prairie High School. Time constraints along with scheduling conflicts made it nearly impossible for kids with a curiosity for agriculture to fully get engaged in that field of study. If you were not from a production Ag background or fully committed to studying Ag in college, you did not really have the time to risk trying a course and not liking it. Kids already had enough on their plates with friends, studying classes, extracurricular activities, and most importantly, graduating on time! Something needed to give. How were we going to waste an opportunity to educate our youth about one of the major pillars of Macomb’s existence? In 2015, the Macomb School District with the help of the Macomb Agriscience Association found the solution.

After gathering the proper amount of money and support from the local community, Macomb High was finally able to bring back the Ag program. I was personally excited to see this change occur because I was one of those very kids who all through elementary and high school wondered what it would be like to be an Aggie but never thought I would be able to find the right fit for me. Sure my father was an Ag professor, but I did not grow up on or really around a farm unless I went to visit family in Missouri. When I graduated high school and registered for Western, I declared Ag Business as my major. However, since I had no prior production Ag experience, I had no idea if this was going to be what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It just so happened that it was the best decision I have ever made it my life, and all I want is for the future kids behind me to be able to realize their love for agriculture at a much younger age and can already begin to make their own impact long before they reach college. Macomb High bringing back Ag has done just that for the younger generation of kids like my two younger brothers, who are or were active members, and my little sister in the near future.

Aside from allowing curious adolescents the opportunity to experience production agriculture in the classroom, it also gives students plenty of other opportunities such as developing leadership and public speaking skills, compete in local and national contests, and also allows some of the students to attend the National Ag Convention. Now these courses were brought back in 2015, so what is the Macomb chapter up to? I, like most in town i’m sure, watched closely to see if it was just a one and done program, or if Ag would stick around. This year my questions were answered when the high school cut the ribbon on a brand new greenhouse for the high school.

Image result for macomb high greenhouse
Ribbon Cutting At Macomb Senior High School (photo from KHQA)

In October of this year, the Macomb Ag program took another step forward in its comeback to campus by erecting and opening a brand new greenhouse to be able to support the horticulture classes that the school would like to begin offering. When I asked my dad, who played an important role in bring these courses back, about what this would mean for the kids he told me this. “Drew you were one of the new kids to Ag. You know that it is much harder to learn about something new, especially soil and plants if you don’t get in there with em and get your hands dirty. I think this is exactly what kids need.” After just two years of being back in town, Macomb Ag has already accomplished something people said might take as long as 5-10 years before anything would get done. With an estimated value of around $50,000, the 30 foot by 60 foot structure was made possible by several local businesses like DuPont Pioneer and Ayerco along with the Tracy Family Foundation that granted most of the money needed for the project. Now with upwards of 80 active students, new horticulture classes, and a brand new greenhouse, I could not be more proud to say that I see Ag being an instrumental part of Macomb High as well as our town for years to come.

My name is Drew Baker and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University majoring in Ag Business. With my degree I look to move out of state to pursue a career in Sales or Marketing.




“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

At age 16, I heard this voice. I answered the call by heading west to Yosemite. I spent the summer of 2013 working in the beauty of this national park. I was part of a crew consisting of 10 kids from across the United States. Most of the crew did not know what to expect.  This experience involved hard work for 8-10 hours a day.  Most of my time was spent deep in the forest away from civilization.  This included sleeping in a tent, eating only the food we were able to carry on our backs and not being able to take a real shower for a week.  Our crew was responsible for trail maintenance, building water bars, and re-routing trails.  Great focus was on conserving the land.

In 2014, I spent the summer in Minnesota and Virginia.  This was a big change from Yosemite, but was an upgrade in comfort.  We got to stay in bunk houses, someone else prepared meals for us, and we had running water for a shower.  The work was less strenuous.  My crew put in fire pits, cleared a cabin overlook, and maintained ATV trails.  While in Virginia, we were also responsible for removing invasive species to the forest undergrowth.

I traveled out west again, to Colorado, in 2015.  This was a 10 week program in the Colorado Rockies.  Youth from all across the Unites States made up my crew. I had two leaders who guided our work day.  Once again, hard labor occupied my days.  My crew built a bridge, repaired walkways, re-routed a two mile trail, and hauled lumber into the woods for a future project.  I had to sleep in a tent, only got to shower once a week, and had to ration out food for a week.  There was also limited cell phone service in the mountains.

The summer of 2016, I spent six hours on a boat heading to Isle Royale National Park in the middle of Lake Superior. This was a unique experience because I was on an island.  There are moose and wolves that inhabit the island.  Our crew was responsible for packing six weeks of food to take to the island.  The ground was very hard to sleep on, it got very cold at night, and we showered in the cold water of Lake Superior.  One highlight of this job opportunity was working with a helicopter to transport lumber all over the island to restore old walkways.  We also celebrated 100 years of the National Park Service.

Most recently, I worked in Virginia at two parks, Shenandoah River and Grayson Highlands, located on the Appalachian Trail.  I took on the responsibility of a crew leader this summer. The program provided me with ten high school boys for two, three week sessions.  I was required to cook, train, supervise, discipline, and educated these individuals.  Safety was number one.  We were provided with daily job tasks from the park maintenance manager.  Some work days lasted 10 hours.  The crew from my first session installed geo-webbing and covered it with rock to prevent trail erosion. This took us two full weeks.  Education was an important part of the job experience.  On the weekends, I took my crew to Washington, D.C., nature hikes, canoeing, kayaking, and bird watching.

My experiences working in the parks has inspired me to return during the summer of 2018.

Working for the Conservation Corps is an excellent opportunity to gain experience while working in a national park. Individuals are able to meet new people, develop leadership skills, learn how to use tools and equipment to preserve the parks, and to educate others regarding conservation. The Conservation Corps programs allow individuals the chance to work in national parks across the United States. These parks are the home of breathtaking views and rock formations. These programs are an asset to a resume and assist with obtaining a job in the future.  For more information, complete an online search for a conservation program in a state you would like to work. Not all states have a program available.

35591744456_43180a0e5a_o(Picture by Cody Deffendall)

My name is Mitchell Carr.  I am from Delavan, Illinois, a town of 1800 people.  Currently, I am a junior at Western Illinois University majoring in Ag-Science with a minor in Conservation. I am sure my future employment will take me away from my hometown, since there are limited national park opportunities in the mid-west.

Thanks for reading my post.


Life After the Show Ring

Since I can remember I have always spent close to all of my time in a barn. When I was young it was in a cattle barn, while my brother was showing. And at first I started out in the same barn showing cattle but by the end of my first year I wanted to try something different. Little did my family, and mainly my brother know that showing pigs would become my passion. By 2009 I told my brother I wanted to start raising our own show pigs. From the beginning it was mainly to be able to say we raised the hogs that I was showing and competing with, and if you asked me six years ago what my goal was? I would have told you to win state fair with a barrow we raised. After walking out of the show ring for the last time as a junior member this past August, I still have the same goal but its changed a little bit now.

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Photo from: Nick Bangerts facebook. Taken by: Mapes Photography

I never would have thought that being done showing would actually be nice, but this past summer it finally hit me that I was ready to be done, and just wanted to help others. My brother always said ” I would rather be behind the gate, then in the ring”. Until the past couple summers when I really started to help other families, I thought he was crazy, but I soon realized he was right! It’s actually fun to work with a young exhibitor throughout the summer and then see them have the success with livestock that we raised or helped them find.

After being done showing, I really think it’s important to be able to help the younger generation the same way I got help from so many breeders and role models. This goes with making those visits throughout the summer to help with feed rations, walking and just the everyday daily care. And it’s not about doing it for them but helping them make steps in the right direction to have the most success that they can. This doesn’t just apply for hogs but all livestock and or even sports. Making a positive impact on youth helps them be better for the future.

One of the best leaders in the livestock industry to me, Dan Hoge has always said that “it’s not over, your role has just changed”. I couldn’t be happier that I have different role now. I still have the same goal of raising the grand barrow at a state fair, but now I just want to be the one standing behind the gate helping someone else do it!

Myself 2017

My name is Nick Bangert and I am from Blue Grass, Iowa.  I’m a senior at Western Illinois University, but before attending WIU, I graduated from Black Hawk East with my associates in Ag Business and have been apart of the Livestock Judging team at both colleges. I have grown up on a small grain and livestock farm. My future goals after graduation this spring is to move back home, obtain a job in an Ag related field and continue to raise livestock. Thank you for reading my blog.


Farming Specialty Crops

In the modern world farming is a practice that fewer and fewer people are involved with every year. Growing up in central Illinois I grew up in a farming community where my family has farmed for generations. Like my grandparents and great grandparents had done my family had a row crop operation along with a small herd of cattle but what made my parents farm so different from the way the rest of our family farmed was that they started producing horticultural crops. While growing specialty crops gave my family and I many new opportunities it also brought up many new challenges for us along the way.

Growing crops like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries just to name a few aren’t very common crops in central Illinois it becomes a challenge when issues arrive. Unlike issues with corn and soybeans you can’t just call your seed dealer of local agronomist to ask for advice when you are facing problems. Reading spray guides and researching online for handling certain weed and disease breakouts in fruit production is only so helpful so many problems that are faced have to be done through trial and error. what also makes our business different from row crop production is living in Illinois there isn’t crop insurance that you can purchase for specialty crops in case of failure which adds more risk to this business.

With many struggles that we have faced farming this way we have been fortunate to have found success as well. Twenty two years ago my parents started this business with very little experience or knowledge about specialty crops to becoming one of the most successful specialty crop businesses in the area. my father has given several presentations at many state and regional shows for horticulture production for people who are wanting to get into this kind of business for themselves.

The time i have spent at Western Illinois University had not only helped me learn more about agriculture and given me many opportunities to learn and grow in the field but has given me a greater appreciation for the business my family has.

My name is Logan Conrady i am from Hettick Illinois and a senior at Western Illinois University pursuing a degree in Ag Science with a minor in agronomy. strawberries

Building a Legacy- WIU Performance Bull Test


Delson Wilcoxen- Beef Herd/ Bull test Manager- Checking bull identification- Photo by Keely Egelhoff

The 2018 Sale

The 46th WIU Annual Performance Bull Test Sale will take place March 9, 2018. The sale will consist of 50 lots of the top performing bulls for the year. The test lasts for 112 days where the bulls are weighed twice on the test, once every 28 days. EPDs (expected progeny difference) is then released when sale catalogs are released.


The WIU Bull Performance test is

Ken Nimrick celebrates Western’s 40th Annual Performance Tested Bull Sale, Photo courtesy of WIU School of Agriculture. 

Illinois oldest performance test. SIU (Southern Illinois University) has the second oldest sale, just celebrating 40 years of top-line genetics. The WIU test has seen record numbers every year from the number of producers to the price at which bulls are sold. 2017 sale average hit the second highest sale average $3,461. The performance test is one of the most revered tests in the state and will continue to provide quality seed stock. Bringing in producers from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Iowa but being cosigned in five states. Ken Nimirck longtime employee and dedicated herdsman passed away in 2016. The 2017 Bull Performace Sale was dedicated in his honor. While Ken was at Western the sale seen record numbers and top performing bulls. Each year Ken pushed the limits of quality to ensure that buyers would be receiving the best the area had to offer.


Preparing for the bulls

In preparing for the arrival of bulls the bull test staff has a lot of work to do. Pens have to be cleaned, supplies have to be brought in, information for each producer needs to be gathered and organized. During this time all focus is on getting ready to house 75 bulls.  In the future, there are hopes to expand the testing facility to accommodate more bulls.

Photo by Keely Egelhoff

On the test, the bulls are on full feed and free choice hay for the full testing period. Producers are able to bring young bulls born during the months of January-March. Bulls will arrive on the WIU Beef farm during the last part of September. Bulls are sorted into pens based on breed, weight, and docility allowing the best opportunity for each bull to perform. Once on the farm, the bulls are given a three-week adjustment period. This allows the bulls to adjust to new surroundings and also to each other. Bulls are monitored around the clock checking for overall wellness and adjustment. After the adjustment period, the bulls are then used in many animal science labs. Many of the students are able to get hands-on experience with cattle because of the performance test.

Student Opportunities

Students are asked to sort several pens of bulls looking for different features common with the breeds located in each pen. This allows students the ability to work cattle. In many of the advanced classes, students are asked to perform health assessments. In preparing for the test a few students took the opportunity to work with the local vet taking the necessary blood samples to enter WIU raised bulls into the test. All of this combined allows for a deeper understanding of the bulls and allows students the chance to work with live animals instead of just in the classroom. The WIU junior and senior livestock judging team also uses the bulls in a few exercises allowing them to prepare for judging contests. Having the ability to practice on the WIU farm gives our judging team an advantage.

I had the opportunity last year to work with the producers during the sale. I took several around to their respected bulls and talk with them about their breeding program and how their bulls performed throughout the year. I was able to make a few connections with many veteran producers for WIU. In speaking with Scott Groennert, about his operation, he commented that he produces bulls for many sales but always enjoys coming to WIU sale. He stated, “You have to breed bulls differently for each test. No two tests are the same because buyers are looking for different characteristics in each sale”. Scott had the top performing bull for 2017 and hopes to see another top bull this year.

Dr. Schar DVM- Local vet used by WIU Beef Herd. Photo by Keely Egelhoff 

Application Process

Producers are required to place an application in with the director Dr. Kella Trennapohl if they want to enter bulls into the test. Applications are due by Sept. 1 of each year allowing time for processing. During the application period, producers are asked to have a vet check the overall health of the animals and perform a series of tests. These tests are to check for Johne’s disease and anaplasmosis. Both diseases are deadly to livestock herds and have the potential to kill animals infected. In order to keep all animals safe, each bull has to be tested with a negative result before they are allowed to be unloaded. Any bull that tests positive is not allowed on the farm for animal safety. Producers also have a deadline to wean the animals and are asked to have the bulls used to grain feed before they arrive.

Making the Cut

Bulls will be indexed by breed group (if there are more than four of a breed) as well as against all bulls on test. Both indexes are based on 70% ADG ratio + 15% Marbling ratio + 15% REA ratio. This index will rank bulls by not only examining their growth advantage but also at the economic advantages their offspring will have by producing a better product. Approximately 50 bulls will be selected for the sale, based on their within-breed index. However, to be eligible for the sale, all bulls must have an across-breed index of at least 80, a minimum adjusted scrotal circumference of 32 cm, be screened for disposition, pass a soundness exam based on the University of Missouri scoring system, and pass a reproductive exam. Plus, EPD data for such traits as birth weight, weaning weight and yearling weight will be available to prospective customers. By taking advantage of the top genetics available through these tested bulls, economic advantages will be realized by producers for generations to come. This makes the test more competitive and allows the buyers to purchase the top quality animals. All animals who do not make the cut are taken back to their home farm.

The Sale

A month before the sale the top 50 bulls are photographed and then videoed for the sale catalog. Online videos of the bulls moving help buyers make more informed decisions before the sale rather than making quick decisions when the bull is in the sale ring. The day before the sale all bulls are washed and trimmed. This is a very cold and long task the weather is usually still low 40s. But as Friday comes there is an excitement in the air as the bulls are loaded and moved to the WIU Livestock Center. Here a beautiful sale ring is set up and waiting for buyers. Staff and students spend all day preparing the arena for the night’s following sale. Pens have to watered down, tanks for water have to be brought in and filled, bleachers and chairs need to be cleaned and organized. Everyone has a job to do to make the sale work seamlessly. During the sale, students are asked to run the bullpens. Each bull is ear tagged with their lot number, so as their number is called the students are responsible for cutting them out of the herds and pushing them into the alleyway leading to the sale pen. At the end of the night, every bull is loaded and sent to their new home or taken back to the WIU farm where their new owner will pick them up in the morning.

As the legacy of our sale continues to grow so does the hard work that goes into readying the bulls for sale. Daily care and attention are given to them. We strive to stay in contact with the producers of each bull and answer any questions when needed. Overall WIU needs the bull sale to help with the continued education of its students and the public about animal science.

If you have any questions about the WIU Performance Bull test please contact- Delson Wilcoxen or Keela Trennaphol the numbers provided in the link below.

Contact Us

“You have to breed bulls differently for each test. No two tests are the same because buyers are looking for different characteristics in each sale” – Scott Groennert- annual producer (pictured middle)



Hello, I am Keely Egelhoff, a senior agriculture business major, minoring in precision ag and ag technology management. I come from a small grain and livestock farm in southern IL. I grew up raising livestock and have a huge passion for community service. On campus, I am the Ag Mech president, a member of Sigma Alpha, a certified scuba diver and an honor student. I have really enjoyed my time at Western and encourage others to visit.

A Day as a custom haying owner / operator

A custom hay operator. The joys of the job. Everyday there is a new field to bale, or a new farm to go to wrap hay for. These farms can take you as far away from home base as you would like. You can be a half mile down the road at the neighbor’s place, 2 hours away from home, or 2 days away from home. You get to meet some amazing people, that manage their farms in very different ways.

Fall and Cornstalks

While my custom business is still growing, along with trying to find a way to expand the business into a year around business. The main proponent has been haying for the last 6 plus years. While haying occurs mostly during the summer months allowing, me to operate during the summer break of schooling. There is an overlap time in the fall of the year with schooling and this leads to some challenging times of coordinating classes with good weather, and a very helpful father. Trying to make cornstalk bales, and get some cornstalks wrapped for farmers in the fall of the year is always a fun time for me. For I get to go from classes to the equipment.

Summertime and Baleage

During the summer is where the equipment that I have purchased for this business really shines. For several reasons, I have focused my machinery towards a commonly known practice but rarely implemented practice of baleage. Baleage is a simple way of being able to make hay without having to wait for the hay to dry down for 3 or 4 days. Baleage is hay or forages that are put up in a wet state, then wrapped to seal the oxygen out of the crop. This creates silage in bale form. For this I have purchased the main item in making baleage, which is a bale wrapper. This machine covers the bales in 8 layers of plastic, of which is an oxygen barrier. Allowing the bales to go through the fermenting process, and creating baleage. The other machine that I have purchased to drive this change in the forage industry has been a silage special round baler. This

Photo taken by Alex Dambman, viewing the tractor and specialty baler in the field.

machine turns the hay crop into round bales, like conventional round balers only this one is special. It has been designed and built to handle this heavy wet and sometimes sticky forages. While also having a special chopping rotor in the throat of the machine. This cuts the hay from long stem material into material that rarely gets over 4 1/2” in length. Cutting the material helps with feeding the material for several reasons. First it is easier to pull apart, with baleage the hay sticks together more and can sometimes be challenging to break the bale apart. Also, it reduces the amount of wasted hay when feeding to cattle, for they are only able to grab a mouth full, rather than a mouthful and plenty of extra that they are rarely able to get into their mouth.


Typical summertime day

            So, the actual typical day in the summer. Usually starts with a morning greasing and servicing of equipment. Along with a double check of the amount of Net wrap and Plastic that is in storage. The experience of a shortage of net wrap and or plastic during a busy day of baling and or wrapping is something that I do not like to experience. There’s also a morning list of phone calls to make to the farmers that we finished wrapping their hay later in the night. While also calling a making a schedule for the day of what and where the baler is needing to go, and to what time the baler should be done baling for the day. This is an important detail for the day, for this is also the time that we get to get started wrapping all the baleage made that day. For any of the baleage bales that were baled, have a 24-hour time of which they must get wrapped, or the nutrient amount of the bale starts to decline so rapidly that the baleage can turn into a product that has no value other than returning some organic matter back to the soil. Therefore, I try to and focus on wrapping, all the baleage that I must wrap within a 12-hour time of which it is baled. This 12-hour goal, creates some long nights of wrapping on occasion. For most

Photo taken by Alex Dambman, viewing the bale wrapping, wrapping baleage.
days during the summer, the baler is busy baling hay from roughly noon till 7:30 or 8 depending upon the day could go later or could also be shorter. It is then that, most of the customers have the baleage bales moved to the location that they are wanting to wrap. It’s usually then when the wrapper can then get started wrapping the hay that was made that day. While the wrapper tends to be a faster machine at handling a larger number of bales. It only takes several farmers to have bales to wrap that can make a night long. While most nights we’re done wrapping the baleage by 10 or 11o’clock at night, there are nights that lots of farmers have baleage to wrap and they have large number of bales. This can lead to the nights getting stretched into the 2 or 3o’clock in the morning.


My thoughts

While working late into the night to get the job done is not what I would call an ideal work schedule. Along with the amount and value of equipment needed to operate a custom haying operation like this is large for anyone trying to get into the market. This industry is one that I have deep connection with. The farmers I get to meet and work with are what I believe some of the best at doing what they are doing. While I also enjoy this industry, while getting to travel to new areas, new farms, and get to change up the forages that we get to bale. Changing the way that a practice that we do daily, keeps it very interesting and challenging in day to day operations. Would I build this operation the way I have if I could go back? I wouldn’t want to change a way I have done anything with this operation. The niche market that I have opened with the special baler, and wrapper has given me more work than I thought it would originally. Driving my love for this industry, which is know what I hope to continue after gradation in May 2018.

Photo by family member, of Alex Dambman

My name is Alex Dambman and I am a senior at Western Illinois University. Majoring in Agricultural business. With hopes to return home and continue this custom operation, and or take over the family business.










From the Windy City to Corn Fields


Finding my Purpose

As you can probably tell from the title I am originally from Chicago, Illinois. I spent the early years of my life in Austin, Chicago, but due to the increase in violence within my community, my parents decided to move my two brothers and I to a suburb called Oak Park- a place that I’ve grown to love and proudly call home. The change in environment helped guide me to my passions and this was where I discovered what I wanted to do for the rest of my life—help animals. As a young boy, I loved all types of animals. Not having a pet, like many other people I knew, didn’t seem to stop me in the least bit from interacting with one every chance got. I remember many occasions where I would bring home stray or lost animals, adopting them as my own (my mom would look at me crazily while she dialed the numbers on the dogs’ tags). A specific moment that helped me discover my passion for helping animals was on my way home from elementary school. As I got off the bus, there was Great Dane just sitting there by itself. Instinctively, the first thing I did was approach the dog to pet it. Time must have slipped from me because before I knew it, I had been sitting there for hours trying to keep the dog company and safe. Eventually, a man approached us and began to praise me for finding his lost dog. At first, I was disappointed because, as far as I was concerned, the Great Dane had become mine through those couple hours… but in the end, I did cave and returned the dog to his rightful owner. Even as a young boy, I felt the need to sit with the lost dog and help him in any way I could. This experience made me realize not only that I couldn’t resist a cute dog, but that I’ve always had an instinct to help animals, therefore my goal was to make it my purpose in life.


My Experience at WIU

Some of the few reasons that drew me to Western Illinois University was that I knew people who previously went to school here and that I wanted to go somewhere further away from home but close enough so that I could still visit frequently. To be honest, I  had no intention of pursuing agriculture here at W.I.U. and was quite unaware that Pre-Veterinary Science was under the umbrella of the Agriculture program. Upon finding that out, I assumed the next four years here a WIU weren’t going to be fun because I had no background in agriculture, nor did it even appeal to me. I imagined that because of my lack of experience in agriculture, I was going to be an outsider… Man was I wrong. The exact opposite ended up happening; everyone, from the teachers like Professor Hoge and Professor Bernards, to the students made me feel very welcomed and all my worries seemed to have been for nothing. To my surprise, I even looked forward to class at the farm because of the hands-on learning it gave me. Never in my life did I think I would be herding cattle but I did it here at Western. agriculture has provided me with a level of experience that I don’t think would have been provided elsewhere. This program has not only taught me more about animals, but has opened my mind to new things as well as allow me to have some of the best experiences of my life.


What I plan to Take Away From This

Being introduced to agriculture has really helped in my veterinary studies. The introduction to livestock really helped me deal with animals outside of the norm. I’ve also gotten to meet people who love what they are learning, which is something that I admire. I always hear people say, “I went to college for 4 years and I learned nothing”, but that’s not something I believe to be true for me. Everything that I’ve learned in class I plan on continuing to apply- not only when I go to veterinarian school, but even as I start to treat animals as a practicing vet. Even though my journey here has been totally unexpected, I believe I ended up in the perfect place in pursuit of my career— something I’ll never take for granted.



My name is Markus Allen and I am a student at Western Illinois University studying Pre-Veterinary science as my major and Chemistry as my minor. Thanks for taking the time to read my Blog. (By the way that is me holding the piglet)