Locals gain big ag youth honors

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Hamming it up

Dillon’s Aspen Longie with her award-winning pig. submitted photo

Beaverhead County got another strong indication that its stature as one of Montana’s leading agricultural centers will remain in good hands well into the future with the recent honoring of the efforts of young area ag standouts.

Dillon’s Aspen Longie last week gained first place from the Montana Symbol of Excellence (SOE) program for its youth exhibitors and hog breeders in the light carcass division that attracted over 1,000 entries from around the state.

“He was actually one of the lighter hogs at the fair,” said Longie of her winning pig, Wall-E, whose muscularity impressed her upon first sight. Longie bolstered those qualities in Wall-E after acquiring him from Idaho hog breeder Coco Cervantes with a daily exercise regimen.

“I walked him every night— sometimes for 15 minutes, sometimes for up to a half hour,” said Longie of Wall-E, who gained another sort of workout while feeding.

“We did a timed feeder, so he would only get food for 15 minutes, and then pull it,” said Longie, who fed Wall-E with 18 percent protein feed from Westfeeds.

“It made him feel like he needed to eat more to get enough,” said Longie of Wall-E’s strategic feeding sessions as part of a quartet of pigs.

“If anything, I think he actually ate less than the other three.”

Longie said she gained no direct training, but gleaned valuable insights watching older brother Gene and her boyfriend raise animals.

“I just kind of picked things up from them as I went along,” said the Beaverhead County High School senior.

Wall-E represented Longie’s second entry into the hog division.

“My first was about six years ago, in my first year of 4-H. After that, I did steer for four or five years,” said Longie, who scored a showmanship award during her time exhibiting steer.

“I like raising them both, bit probably prefer a steer over a pig, to be honest.”

Dillon’s Hunter Probst is enjoying and excelling at raising steer, as evidenced by his recent achievement in the field.

“As soon as I could, when I was eight or nine, I started taking part in raising them,” recalled Probst of his history of raising steer, which now includes a second-place in the carcass division of this year’s Montana Steer of Merit program.

“I just like the technical stuff about it—picking out your steer. And I like the family time you get to spend, learning how to do different things,” said Probst, who combined all that in raising his winning steer, which came from the family’s cows.

“I learned from my grandpa, Mike Probst. He taught me everything I know about it and was always there for guidance. My grandpa has produced a lot of quality steer,” said Probst, whose family has operated Probst Livestock for the last four decades.

“My uncle Seth Probst is also a big part of it,” added Probst of the man who showed him a lot about showmanship and also helped his brother earn a first place award for steer several years ago.

A BCHS senior, Probst got involved in 4-H through his grandfather and wants to continue the family tradition of working in agriculture after he returns from his two-year church mission.

Though he also plans to pursue excellence in another professional field worked by his family.

“I want to be an oral surgeon and just do the family business on the side,” said the straight-A student of his plans.

“My uncle is a dentist and I have always been interested in that.”

Longie said she also hopes to continue raising market animals.

“Right now working at the post office,” said the multi-talented Longie, who won a buckle at last winter’s ski joring event in Wisdom.

“I’ll probably keep doing that for awhile until I can get a farm of my own,” said the 2020 youth champion in the SOE hog light carcass division.

The SOE program every year honors Montana 4-H and FFA youth and hog breeders who raise high-quality market hogs.

In 2020, SOE collected carcass and ultrasound data for 1553 hogs from across the state of Montana with 21% qualifying to be SOE hogs, according to a press release sent out last week by SOE announcing this year’s honorees.

“These hogs were shown by 4-H and FFA youth who committed to the market swine project from beginning to end. The SOE standards are based upon live weight, hot carcass weight, back fat, loin area, marbling, color, wetness, muscle, and firmness.

The product of a a partnership between Montana Pork Producers Council (MPPC) and MSU Extension before the Pork Act of 1985, the SOE program got developed “to highlight the hard work of both youth and hog breeders that continues today” by MPPC with MSU Extension Swine Specialists Wayne Gipp and Walt Neuman.

“The SOE Program is unique to Montana. The vision of SOE as a carcass quality program is to help producers improve their hog carcass quality while educating youth through 4-H,” explained MPCC President John Rauser, who has overseen the program for many years.

“I commend our youth and my fellow pork producers who participate in the SOE program for all of their hard work and the commitment to make this program successful for so many years and many years to come."