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More than a show

Dedication. Drive. Devotion. Determination.

From the 2 a.m. call to the barn as a sow delivers a litter of piglets, to the daily chores of feeding, grooming, training and bonding with each show animal, raising and exhibiting pigs is a family affair for the Todd family of Seneca, Mo.

Jarrod and Jami Todd each were raised on family farms. He worked cattle while she showed livestock, including pigs. So, for their three children—Jori, Jeffrey and Jaci—farm life and showing pigs are part of their DNA.

“They have a system, and the kids work well together,” said Jarrod. “Jami and I think it is very important for them to raise their own show pigs, so they know all the steps involved in pro­ducing and showing an award-winning animal. It’s really cool to see all their hard work pay off.”

The oldest Todd sibling, Jori, was 2 years old when she began working with pigs.

“I started showing in the ‘peewee’ divisions when I was 4 or 5, then started showing against the older kids in the ring when I was 9,” said the 17-year-old senior at Seneca High School who was crowned the 2022 Newton County Fair Queen this past summer. “I enjoy the competitive factor. I like raising a pig and winning with it. I enjoy walking them around, building that trust and getting them ready for the show.”

“Washing them, well, I don’t really like to do that because it makes me cold afterwards,” she added with a laugh.

In the world of livestock competitions, some families find it easier to purchase an animal that is already muscled and knows what to do in the ring rather than breeding, nurturing and training one. The Todds say they take a more difficult yet rewarding approach.

“I could go out and buy show pigs, but we chose to study genetics, listen to judges’ feedback, learn more about nutrition, and train and bond with each pig we raise,” Jarrod said. “It’s fun to take a hog you bred and raised and beat guys you know spent a lot of money on a hog they purchased just for that show.”

Such inequality of opportunity is part of the learning process in the show pig circuit, Jami added.

“It is a life lesson on values, work ethic and seeing the process through that the kids are going to learn, either in the show ring or elsewhere,” she said. “There is nothing better than watching them have that interaction from the day a piglet is born to the time they take it to the show arena. Seeing our kids grow and take part in the responsibilities of producing a good-quality pig that comes off of our farm is everything to me. That’s a big accomplishment. And when they come home with an award, there is pure joy.”

When raising show pigs, the focus is on traits and physical characteristics, Jarrod explained. The judges are looking for muscle quality, how the pig carries itself in the ring and the ever-elusive eye appeal. The Todd family keeps those qualities in mind with each step in their show pig production.

Nutrition is an important part of the process. The Todds met Greg Davis, MFA livestock specialist who has expertise in show pigs, at a producers’ meeting hosted by MFA Agri Services in Neosho, Mo.

“We talked about MFA’s Ring Leader line of show feeds, and they had lots of questions about nutrition and how to get better with the competitions,” Davis said. “I learned more about their program as well as their goals. I believe that the Todd family is great to partner with because their goals are right in line with MFA’s values. At MFA, we look at the whole farm perspective and the whole farm solution. As far as I’m concerned, the big­gest part of the whole farm is the kids.”

Since meeting two years ago, Davis and the Todds have built a relationship they describe as a “win-win” for each. Davis shares nutritional expertise as well as showmanship tips. “If we have a question about anything, Mr. Greg is probably the first person we call,” said Jami.

“We really are good friends,” Davis added. “I love to see how this experience molds and shapes each child. When raising livestock, there are some hard knocks along the way. It is tough when you implement a plan, and something doesn’t go right. The Todd kids are learning about the process, the good and the bad as well as what it is like to be successful. Just raising and grow­ing a pig is one thing. But to really do it right and be prepared when the show comes around makes the pig healthier, more sound and less stressed.”

Just like a proud parent, Davis also sees where each child shines.

“Jori does an excellent job with showman­ship. Jeffrey looks at catalogs and researches the genetics to match the animals he’s going to breed,” said Davis. “They order the semen from the boars that Jeffrey picks. Jarrod gives his son that responsibility and trust. And at 11 years old, Jaci has good examples in front of her, and she is learning from them. She is going be a good one.”

The Todds said they believe having Davis as a resource and the nutrition in Ring Leader products give them an advantage in the highly competitive show pig circuit.

“The worst part about the show side is that there are secrets, and not a lot of people share. It’s nice to have someone like Greg who lets you know that there are simple things we can do to solve problems,” said Jarrod. “It just makes our life a lot calmer in the barn and makes us more successful without shell­ing out so much money on an expensive fix.”

MFA Ring Leader is one of those recommendations. Jarrod describes the feed line as “extremely user friendly.” The show swine feed comes in several different formulations to target spe­cific traits, maturation stages and special needs of each breed. It also comes with MFA Shield Technology, an all-natural blend of proprietary supplements that improves gut health and helps the pigs thrive and grow at the proper pace.

“A few years ago, we experimented with three different feeds,” Jarrod said. “We used Ring Leader and two other prominent feed brands. The two most successful pigs we had at the larger shows were fed only Ring Leader. We have not had a problem with scours, and the pigs love the feed.”

To be successful with show animals, following a solid nutri­tional plan is vital, Davis said.

“You see a winning pig and then want run to the supply trail­er to buy what that owner is using,” he said. “There is always some tweaking along the way, but the Todds have a calculated nutritional plan and stick to it. Our Ring Leader feed is very fresh and very palatable. Consumption is better. Results are better. Everything is better.”

Other keys to the Todds’ success are analysis and genetic research led by 14-year-old Jeffery, who said he enjoys the re­sponsibilities of breeding and owning pigs. His analytical work includes diving deep into the judges’ comments from previous competitions.

“I like the recognition when I place higher than someone who I know does not do the research or work I put into it,” the teen said. “The genetics are fun for me because I have the ability to make my pig look a certain way.”

Cheering on her older siblings is still Jaci’s main role during shows, but her competitive side is amping up as she starts to show pigs. She is also very interested in the genetics and bloodlines of her animals.

“My pig, Bella, is a blue Hampshire,” she explained. “I started talking to Dad about what type of pig I want­ed to breed her with, and I first thought a calico. Then I talked to Mr. Greg, and he had a blue butt boar. They were both blue pigs, which I thought was cool, and his boar had the qualities I thought were needed to make a really good pig.”

When asked about her long-term goals, Jaci said, “Sometimes I think about making a business where I am kind of like Mr. Greg. I want to help other kids learn more about pigs and how to show them, but I also want to keep raising pigs.”

Jami added that she feels that showing pigs has made their family closer and stronger, which are rewards that can’t be defined by trophies, plaques and ribbons.

“Each kid has a special role, which makes things fun,” she said. “For example, when we have a sow ready to give birth, Jeffrey literally gets into the crate right next to her, and she is as calm as could be. Then Jori is the one who makes sure that the babies get milk in their stomach right away. And Jaci helps dry them off and get them ready to go. It is a great team effort with some great life lessons for all of us.”

For more information about MFA’s Ring Leader Feed and tips on feeding and showing pigs, visit or talk with the livestock experts at your local MFA or AGChoice center.

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