With personal show ring successes, college sophomore raises pigs for championships
By Frank J. Buchman
Firsthand experience gives the best perspective of the show pig industry.
Ethan Frantz of Frantz Show Pigs at Hillsboro, Kan., is just a sophomore studying animal science at Kansas State University. But he’s already had a lifetime of raising and successfully showing hogs.
“I’ve raised my own pigs to show. When you win with one you’ve bred, birthed, grown, fit, shown and then sell for a profit, there’s definitely more satisfaction,” verified Frantz, as he took time out from work on a special undergraduate college research project.
“My brothers and sister showed hogs, and it was natural for me to exhibit, too. I’ve really enjoyed showing hogs all of my life,” Frantz continued. “We started out on the county level, but now I’ve been to all of the state shows and many major national competitions for several years.”
One would have to admit the hog business is in the young hog man’s genes as his parents, Leonard and Jan Frantz, had a 120-sow farrow to finish hog operation for a number of years. “They also had a purebred Yorkshire herd and sold seed stock, but that was a long time ago,” Frantz contended.
Today’s operation in renovated and reduced facilities of decades earlier features about 20 sows farrowing twice annually. “We did have double that number, but we’ve reduced since I’m in college,” said Frantz, who indicated that his dad and mom are an integral part of the operation.
“Actually, my brother, Nolan, an animal nutritionist working in the state of New Jersey, is a partner in the business, but he obviously doesn’t have to get in on much of the work.
“Nolan’s biggest part in the operation is helping formulate rations, and he also helps in selection of the boars we use,” Frantz said.
For a show pig prospect program to be successful, marketing plays a major role, and Frantz is enthusiastic about handling the bulk of that.
“I have lots of acquaintances through my show ring experiences and make contacts with others in several states. I often know what they might want, and I’ll get in touch with them when we have the pigs that will fit their needs,” Frantz said.
The operation consists of Spot, Duroc and crossbred sows, along with Yorkshires, which have again been added recently.
Most of the sows are pen mated to boars that Frantz owns. “Semen on top boars is so expensive that we’ve done better breeding live to our own boars that we’ve raised out of sows we bred artificially to outstanding show-pig-siring boars,” explained Frantz.
On occasion, a boar will be owned with another breeder who will collect it for Frantz’s artificial breeding and semen sales.
More Frantz pigs are also sold private treaty. “We do sell a few state fair and Wichita pigs at the farm,” he added.
There is limited show pig prospect market for summer litters in July and August. “But, we always sell some in Oklahoma and Texas. I have one Texas buyer who has done quite well at the Waco, Texas, show, placing second and third several years, against more than 400 entries. We hope to get more pigs into that area,” Frantz qualified.
Pigs not merchandized as show prospects are sold as commercial feeders.
Hogs purchased from Frantz Show Pigs have collected almost uncountable class and county fair championship. However, Frantz’ personal record of showing home raised pigs to major titles speaks best of the caliber he produces.
While the number is large, Frantz quickly recalled, “My highlight was showing the 2011 grand champion at the Kansas Junior Livestock Show in Wichita. Making the premium sale for having top placing hogs at the American Royal several times is also most memorable. One year, I had the reserve champion Spot there, too.”
Always a contender whenever he was in swine showmanship, Frantz has numerous championships, but he was especially proud to win the Bob Hines Swine Classic at Manhattan in 2011. “That was with the same pig that later won Wichita. He was such a natural,” credited Frantz.
Not only does a hog exhibitor need the right pig to show, but it has to be fed correctly, Frantz emphasized. “Feed costs are very high, but we’re fortunate that Nolan is a nutritionist and formulates our rations. We do all of our own grinding and mixing and probably save half of the cost that some other producers have feeding pellets.
“Expensive show pig growth additives can make a difference for some producers, but I’ve never been high on them. There are more ways to improve performance by changing fat, protein and other ingredients of pig diets,” Frantz contended.
“All pigs perform differently, and sometimes they just don’t turn out the way we think they will,” he admitted.
With already such vast experience in raising and showing top hogs, Frantz has competed under a variety of judges. “I think the hogs have gotten too little and fat, but changes are being made. Again, we’re seeing hogs with more frame, extension and not so much cover,” critiqued Frantz, who is being solicited to compete on his college’s livestock judging team.
Looking toward possible advanced degrees in animal science, his heavy involvement and successes in raising and showing hogs point Ethan Frantz to be a major influence in the industry for decades to come.