Oreo did a happy dance when Jasmin Tripp entered his pen with breakfast, bouncing on his two front feet and nudging her with his snout. With her mom looking on, the 11-year-old poured grain into the pig's bowl, then added leftovers from her family's breakfast - oatmeal and pancake scraps. Grunting contentedly, Oreo stepped into his bowl to gobble up his food.
"He's more like a dog than a pig," said Mavis Tripp, watching as Oreo, a black-and-white Hampshire-cross pig, overturned his dish. "When he follows her around in the show ring instead of her leading him, it tends to get hard."
More than 100 kids involved in Del Norte's six 4-H clubs, Future Farmers of America and Grange will show animals and participate in the non-animal competitions at the Del Norte County Fair starting Thursday.
Between 80 and 90 animals have been weighed in for the 4-H, Future Farmers of America and Grange shows at the fair this year, said Christine Jones, local 4-H Council president and community club leader for the Wild Rivers 4-H Club. Beef were weighed at the end of March while lambs, goats and swine were weighed at the end of May.
Small animals including poultry, guinea pigs and rabbits had their weigh-in at the end of June, Jones said.
"A lot of kids get their (beef) market animals between October and November," she said. "Lambs, goats and swine are usually born between January and February. The kids do rabbit projects year-round."
Jasmin said this is her first year in 4-H and her first time raising a pig for show at the fair. She and her 8-year-old brother, Bradley, also work with calves through the Bucket Calf Project at Alexandre Dairy.
Even though she frolics with Oreo, who likes to roll a basketball around and nibble her feet, Jasmin is no stranger to taking care of animals. A flock of chickens, two ducks and a rescued dairy goat roam the Tripps' two-acre home in Smith River, and three horses nibble grass in a neighboring field.
Jasmin said she acquired Oreo when he was about 6 weeks old. He weighed about 90 pounds in June and is currently over 200 pounds. Her goal is to get Oreo at a weight of between 215 and 230 pounds so he can participate in the auction. Jasmin knows if that happens, he could wind up on someone's dinner plate, but that means she'll also have a little money to offset the cost of his care and to gotoward the purchase of another pig.
Jasmin said she won't find out Oreo's exact weight until his final weigh-in on Wednesday.
"She wants to try all animals, but she's really attached to pigs," Tripp said. "She will be a little sad not having him, but then she'll train with (our goat) now," she said.
Tripp, who grew up in 4-H in Mendocino County, said she recommends 4-H animal projects for kids who are 8 or older.
Jones' 15-year-old daughter Taylor pointed out that the animals raised through 4-H, Grange and FFA have a much better life than most livestock.
Taylor started working with animals at age 5, taking part in Alexandre Dairy's Bucket Calf Project. Now she cares for ducks, sheep, market - or meat - goats and dairy goats, rabbits and guinea pigs. Her family is leasing a dairy cow from Alexandre dairy. Taylor has worked with horses, and a miniature mule lives at her mom's house in Fort Dick.
Taylor, who has been with 4-H for seven years and FFA for two years, is also involved in several non-animal 4-H projects, including photography, baking, gardening and arts and crafts. She also plays soccer and softball at Del Norte High School.
"I want to go into agriculture after high school," she said. "I'm thinking food safety like USDA, not the processing side of it, but more on the growing and farming side of it, doing all the testing to make sure farms are clean and up to protocol and if it's an organic farm, making sure they're following all the organic standards."
Taylor will be showing her market goat, dairy goat, lamb, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and dairy cow at the fair this year. She said she'll likely auction off her lamb and probably her goat.
"I've been auctioning since the fourth grade," Taylor said. "This'll be my fourth lamb, and I've auctioned two rabbits. The money goes into an account for college."
The Del Norte County Fair will start on Thursday. The poultry show will start at 9 a.m. For more information and a list of events, visitwww.dnfair.org.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com .