St. Amant High School senior Taylor Gautreaux ended a nine-year run exhibiting hogs at last week’s state livestock show in Gonzales.
At her side throughout the week were her dad, Gabe Gautreaux, sister Kate, 13, and brother Damien, 15.
The Gautreaux children are carrying on a tradition that started when their dad showed livestock as a youth.
Taylor described the week as bittersweet, but said she knows she’ll be around next year to help Kate when she exhibits pigs. Damien shows goats.
The Gautreauxs were competing, along with hundreds of other students, in the 81st LSU 4-H/FFA State Livestock Show at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. The show, held Feb. 13-20, featured judges determining the winners in various breeds of beef and dairy cattle, goats, hogs, poultry and sheep.
To get to the state show, exhibitors must first compete in parish and district shows.
The Gautreaux family raises hogs on their property in St. Amant. Gabe said he built a barn to handle the family’s livestock needs, which are extensive.
The hog season starts in October and ends in February after the state show when they bring the pigs to the slaughter house.
Taylor said that while she initially had a hard time accepting that the pigs she spent every day with would end up on the dinner table, she eventually “learned to accept it.”
It’s why she doesn’t spend much time picking out names for her pigs. She said she usually just calls them “something that fits their personality.”
Raising hogs is a time-consuming endeavor. The hogs need to be fed and watered each day and their pens need cleaning. When show time rolls around, exhibitors have to perfect their showmanship techniques by learning to maneuver hogs that can weight well over 200 pounds. And, Taylor points out, hogs need to be groomed in preparation for show season.
Taylor said the hogs need to have a balance of muscle and fat to score points in the show ring. Taylor said the judges carefully look over each hog before declaring winners in several breeds and weight classes.
Livestock show season means a lot of work around the Gautreaux house and everyone chips in, Gabe said. He said he spent the first part of the state show with his son showing his goats and the rest of the week with his daughters and the pigs.
The animals have to be loaded into trailers at the house and then unloaded when they get to the show. With hundreds of exhibitors converging at the same time, the exhibition barn gets crowded. Once the animals are registered and weighed, they are placed in a pen, which has to be stocked with food and bedding.
Bailey Louviere, 9, a St. Amant Primary School 4-H member, said she isn’t intimidated by the size of her hog. Bailey, who was much smaller than her hog, stopped in the washing stalls to rinse down her hog.
“She handles it well,” said her dad, Marty Louviere. The Louviere family also raises hogs.
Bailey said she grew up around hogs and enjoys spending time with the large, sometimes stubborn animals.
Across the large 4-H building where the hogs were kept, Keelie Brignac, 17, a junior St. Amant High School, was spending time with her hogs before the competitions began.
Brignac, who enjoys competing in the showmanship category, said she was busy weeks before the state show practicing with her animals.
As other exhibitors were walking by with their hogs, Brignac hopped into the pig stall to scratch her hog’s belly.
“She’s kind of spoiled,” Brignac said.
Winners were honored Saturday during a banquet.
“I’ve got one more year to look forward to,” Brignac said.