ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Showing the grand-champion hog at the prestigious Kansas Junior Livestock Show is an accomplishment in itself. But last month Laci Frantz achieved something no one even thought possible: her hogs were named grand champion and reserve grand champion at that event.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said the 16-year-old Hillsboro High School junior. “Nothing like that has ever happened in the 69-year history of the show. It’s just not really a possible thing.”
Around 375 hogs competed in the show, which was held Sept. 23 in the Kansas Coliseum near Wichita.
Frantz qualified two animals for the final drive by receiving the top award in two different classes, crossbred barrow and duroc barrow.
In the final competition, she showed the crossbred and Ethan, her 9-year-old brother, showed the duroc.
“That kind of misled the judge in that he didn’t know it was the same person showing them,” she said. “He didn’t really think about until after he had picked it.
“A lot of people were kind of upset about that because the same person won,” Frantz added. “It’s not supposed to happen.”
Aside from the acclaim, Frantz came home richer, too. She sold her grand champion winner for a little more than $3,100.
Her recent achievement caps what she calls “a pretty good year” showing hogs at 4-H events. She placed well at an Abilene show in June, then won grand champion with a duroc gilt at the Tri-County Fair in Herington.
That same weekend she took the gilt to the prestigious Manhattan Classic and won reserve champion. She and Ethan also combined for grand champion for another duroc entry and also champion and reserve champion for entries in the hampshire class.
At the Marion County Fair in August, Frantz swept the grand-champion award for her animal and also for her skills in the showmanship competition.
Last month’s state fair was disappointing, though.
“We didn’t do too well,” she said. “We didn’t have the right kind of hogs that time.”
Showing hogs is Frantz’s favorite activity in 4-H.
“It’s so easy and it’s fun to be outside, working and making progress with your animals,” she said.
Officially, she’s been at it since she was 7 years old, the minimum age for joining the organization. But she was already helping her two older brothers, Nolan and Austin, long before then.
“I guess I’ve been doing this almost since I was born,” she said.
Frantz said some of her friends have wondered how she could enjoy working hogs, but within the organization itself, she’s in good company.
“It’s pretty much an accepted thing,” she said. “Girls and guys are about even in number.”
Frantz said she has enjoyed 4-H and feels the organization has done a lot for her.
“It depends on how much you really want to get into it,” she said. “Here in Hillsboro, people are kind of ‘whatever’ about 4-H. But people who are in it actually know what it’s about. It’s a great learning experience with all the responsibilities you have. You’re also open to a bigger variety of things, like scholarships for college.”
Raising hogs has been a sideline business for the entire Frantz family. Her parents, Leonard and Jan, work full-time for the postal service. The Frantz family has a herd of about 20 sows and operate a farrow-to-finish operation.
Laci pitches in on the chores along with everyone else-from giving vaccinations to cleaning pens.
“Some people around here go, ‘Ooo, that’s nasty,’ but for me it’s just part of life,” she said.
The show season usually begins in early summer for the Frantzes and lasts through September-though they usually participate in one show in February, too.
She and Ethan pick their hogs for shows early in the year.
“You have to have an eye for your pig from the beginning,” she said. “You know it’s going to change throughout the time because there’s about six or five months when you show them.”
To prepare for shows, she spends up to 10 hours a week with her hogs.
In addition to feeding and caring for them, she walks her hogs up and down the lane, which gives them exercise but also gets them used to being guided by a handler.
“We walk our hogs a lot before we show them,” she said. “A lot of people don’t. They expect the hog to go out there and just be perfect.”
Like anyone else, Frantz said she likes to win and admits losing can be frustrating.
“Especially when you think you have a really good hog and the judge thinks otherwise,” she said. “But you have to accept that and go on home. You’re really upset at first, but then after a while you have other shows to go to. You learn a lot along the way.”
Frantz can continue in 4-H until she turns 19. She doesn’t know yet whether she’ll pursue a career in an ag-related field.
“I might go a different direction,” she said. “But I’m sure I’ll live out in the country or on a farm or something because that’s just part of who I am and what I’ve grown up with.”